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The Weapon of Tomorrow? Boeing’s CHAMP Missile Fries Computers

Written by on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Every week, approximately 9.8 million viewers tune in to watch NBC’s new hit show, Revolution. This science-fiction series features a group of friends fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic Earth. For some reason, all technology that runs on electricity mysteriously stopped working, forcing society to regress to Civil War-era technology.

Is this series entirely science fiction, or is it grimly prophetic? If Boeing is to be believed, it might actually be the latter. Boeing announced this week that a test with its Counter-electronics High-Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) has successfully destroyed electronic equipment without causing any harm to the surrounding structure.


“We turned science fiction into science fact,” said Keith Coleman, the director of Boeing’s CHAMP program. Electronic-frying weapons, commonly known in sci-fi circles as EMPs or electro-magnetic pulses, have been an imaginary technology on par with time travel and death rays.

It’s hard to understate just how powerful CHAMP weaponry could become. To use Coleman’s words, imagine rendering “an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”

So, what did their test do, exactly? The weapon knocked out a set of personal computers and other electronic systems as part of a test in the Utah Test and Training Range. The missile flew overhead and unleashed ordering antibiotics online blasts of microwaves. These blasts had no effect on the structure whatsoever, but everything with a circuit had its electronic guts fried.

CHAMP will be particularly effective in urban combat where combatants are mixed with civilians. This weapon will take out communication networks, cameras, Internet access, and other electronic devices without harming any nearby civilians. It’s much more humane to fire a CHAMP that takes out cell phones than fire a real missile that destroys apartment buildings.

This has rather unique implications for the USAF. Theoretically, CHAMP-like weapons could be used to “shoot” an aircraft out of the sky. A microwave blast could fry the sensitive electronic equipment within aircraft. At the most it would knock an aircraft out of the sky – at the least it would destroy the aircraft’s sensors and leave the pilot in the dark.

Could microwave-weapons be the next step in anti-air defense? Will the technology of the future fry nuclear missiles that are in flight, or cook the circuitry of aircraft? Will we eventually be able to develop microwave weaponry so powerful that it can snipe enemy satellites out of space? It sounds like we’re getting back into the realm of science-fiction… but then again, Boeing just proved that they can transform science fiction into science fact.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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