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America's Ultra-Secret Weapon

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 758 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... AMERICA S ULTRA-SECRET WEAPON By Mark Thompson Time
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2003
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      AMERICA'S ULTRA-SECRET WEAPON
      By Mark Thompson
      Time Magazine
      Sunday, January 19, 2003

      http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101030127/nmicro.html

      Every war has its wonder weapon. In Afghanistan, it was the Predator, the
      unmanned drone that would loiter, invisibly, over the battlefield before
      unleashing a Hellfire missile on an unsuspecting target. The Gulf War
      marked the debut of precision-guided munitions, and in Vietnam helicopters
      came of age. World War II gave us the horror of nuclear weapons, and World
      War I introduced the tank. If there's a second Gulf War, get ready to meet
      the high-power microwave.

      HPMs are man-made lightning bolts crammed into cruise missiles. They could
      be key weapons for targeting Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of biological and
      chemical weapons. HPMs fry the sophisticated computers and electronic gear
      necessary to produce, protect, store and deliver such agents. The powerful
      electromagnetic pulses can travel into deeply buried bunkers through
      ventilation shafts, plumbing and antennas. But unlike conventional
      explosives, they won't spew deadly agents into the air, where they could
      poison Iraqi civilians or advancing U.S. troops.

      The HPM is a top-secret program, and the Pentagon wants to keep it that way.
      Senior military officials have dropped hints about a new, classified weapon
      for Iraq but won't provide details. Still, information about HPMs, first
      successfully tested in 1999, has trickled out. "High-power microwave
      technology is ready for the transition to active weapons in the U.S.
      military," Air Force Colonel Eileen Walling wrote in a rare, unclassified
      report on the program three years ago. "There are signs that microwave
      weapons will represent a revolutionary concept for warfare, principally
      because microwaves are designed to incapacitate equipment rather than
      humans."

      HPMs can unleash in a flash as much electrical power -- 2 billion watts or
      more -- as the Hoover Dam generates in 24 hours. Capacitors aboard the
      missile discharge an energy pulse -- moving at the speed of light and
      impervious to bad weather -- in front of the missile as it nears its target.
      That pulse can destroy any electronics within 1,000 ft. of the flash by
      short-circuiting internal electrical connections, thereby wrecking memory
      chips, ruining computer motherboards and generally screwing up electronic
      components not built to withstand such powerful surges. It's similar to what
      can happen to your computer or TV when lightning strikes nearby and a tidal
      wave of electricity rides in through the wiring.

      Most of this "e-bomb" development is taking place at Kirtland Air Force Base
      in Albuquerque, N.M. The Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland has been
      studying how to deliver varying but predictable electrical pulses to inflict
      increasing levels of harm: to deny, degrade, damage or destroy, to use the
      Pentagon's parlance. HPM engineers call it "dial-a-hurt." But that hurt can
      cause unintended problems: beyond taking out a tyrant's silicon chips, HPMs
      could destroy nearby heart pacemakers and other life-critical electrical
      systems in hospitals or aboard aircraft (that's why the U.S. military is
      putting them only on long-range cruise missiles). The U.S. used a more
      primitive form of these weapons -- known as soft bombs -- against
      Yugoslavia and in the first Gulf War, when cruise missiles showered miles of
      thin carbon fibers over electrical facilities, creating massive short
      circuits that shut down electrical power.

      Although the Pentagon prefers not to use experimental weapons on the
      battlefield, "the world intervenes from time to time," Defense Secretary
      Donald Rumsfeld says. "And you reach in there and take something out that is
      still in a developmental stage, and you might use it."

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