Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) are an umbrella term covering systems that emits highly focused energy / atomic or subatomic particles and transfers that energy to incapacitate, damage, disable or destroy enemy equipment, facilities and/or personnel. The energy can come in various forms: Electromagnetic radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, lasers and masers, Particles with mass, in particle-beam weapons and Sound, in sonic weapons.
A high-powered microwave weapon (HPM) is type of Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) for employing radio frequency energy against a variety of targets. They are principally counterelectronic weapons and could be used to destroy any enemy electronic systems, including radars, computer systems and communications infrastructures. Electromagnetic weapons can destroy, intercept or jam approaching enemy missiles, drones, rockets or aircraft at much lesser cost than firing an interceptor missile which can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
HPM systems offer military commanders the options of: Speed-of-light, all weather attack of enemy electronic systems, Area coverage of multiple targets with minimal prior information on threats characteristics, Surgical strike (damage, disrupt, degrade) at selected levels of combat, Minimum collateral damage in politically sensitive environments, Simplified pointing and tracking and eep magazines (meaning long operating time without replenishment) and low operating costs.
HPM systems can be Narrowband or Ultra Wideband type, depending on the bandwidth of the transmitted waveform. Many systems, like those based on commercial radar systems are narrow band or have transmitted bandwidths of 1% or less. Narrow band systems can couple to systems very efficiently if the frequency is close to a system resonance. Extremely short pulse systems are known as ultra-wideband systems. UWB systems have instantaneous bandwidths, by some definitions, greater than 100%. Because of the large spread in bandwidth the energy in a given bandwidth (e.g., that covered by a system resonance) is small.
EMP weapons are of the ultra wideband type that generate high power narrow pulse fields, with pulse widths narrower than 100 ps,which may be repetitively pulsed up to 1 million pulses per second. The frequency content in these weapons is typically up to 3 Ghz. US, Russia and China among countries developing high power electromagnetic weapons.
U.S. Air Force has deployed 20 missiles that could zap the military electronics of North Korea or Iran with super powerful microwaves, rendering their military capabilities virtually useless with no collateral damage. Known as the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), the missiles were built by Boeing’s Phantom Works for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.
The microwave weapons are fitted into an air-launched cruise missile and delivered from B-52 bombers. With a range of 700 miles, they can fly into enemy airspace at low altitude and emit sharp pulses of high power microwave (HPM) energy that fry computer chips, disabling any electronic devices targeted by the missiles with causing any collateral damage.
Mary Lou Robinson, the chief of the High Power Microwave Division of the Air Force Research Lab has confirmed to DailyMail.com that the missiles are now operational and ready to take out any target. While North Korea or Iran may attempt to shield their equipment, U.S. officials doubt that would be effective against CHAMP. The project has been advancing secretly ever since the Air Force successfully tested a missile equipped with high-powered microwave energy in 2012.
The beauty of the HPM missile is that its microwave beam can penetrate bunkers where facilities are hidden without harming humans inside. Even if a bunker is buried in a mountain, HPM penetrates the facilities through its connections to power cables, communication lines, and antennas. Thus, HPM can penetrate any underground military facility and destroy its electronics. Targeted at command and control centers, the missile could render any country’s military inoperable. And one missile can hit multiple targets in succession.
Besides underground bunkers and command centers, HPM can quickly disable fighter planes, tanks, ships, and missile systems. And it can wipe out facilities for developing and testing nuclear weapons. Most amazing of all, the missile renders inoperable any radar that might detect it as it flies to and from a target. Thus, a country cannot take out CHAMP before it strikes and has no way of knowing why its facilities have suddenly gone dead.
Countries testing high power directed energy weapons to shoot down drones to adverasry’s Radars to communications systems.
It is reported During the 1991 Gulf War, the US carried and used EMP weapons on its E-8 Joint Stars aircraft to disrupt electronic command systems, which international analysts believe was one of the main advantages the US had over its enemy. In March 1999, the US used microwave weapons during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, causing communication in certain areas to be disrupted for more than three hours. EMP weapons were then used to sever Iraqi state television broadcast signals in March 2003 during the Iraq War.
The U.S. Air Force plans to deploy a prototype of Raytheon’s Phaser high-power microwave counter-drone system for an operational evaluation. The Pentagon announced the deal, worth almost $16.3 million, in its daily contracting announcements on Sept. 23, 2019. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is managing the program, which it says will include a year-long evaluation of Phaser at an unspecified location “OCONUS,” or “outside the continental United States.” Work under the contract is set to wrap up on Dec. 20, 2020. AFRL has previously tested Phaser at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Phaser in its current form is a containerized high-power microwave directed energy weapon. Raytheon says one of its goals is to eventually be able to scale down the system into more portable, flexible forms. Radars or electro-optical and infrared cameras help cue the system to its targets. It then projects a beam of microwave energy that aims to disrupt a drone’s internal systems, causing it to fall out of the sky or possibly initiate a pre-programmed emergency procedure where it tries to lands or return to a point of origin.
The Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) is a joint concept technology demonstration led by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base to develop an air-launched directed-energy weapon capable of incapacitating or damaging electronic systems. On October 22, 2012, Boeing announced a successful test of the missile. CHAMP took out seven different targets before self-destructing over empty desert. CHAMP is capable of up to 100 shots per sortie.
Congress has suggested repurposing excess cruise missiles demilitarized under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to turn them into CHAMP weapons without violating it. On 14 May 2015, the Air Force nominated the Lockheed Martin JASSM-ER as the optimal air vehicle to carry the CHAMP payload. The U.S. Air Force is reported to have developed technology for a steerable counter-electronics multi-shot, multi-target, high-power microwave (HPM) weapon aboard an AGM-86 ALCM. By the mid-2020s, HPM weapons are expected to be integrated onto a “JASSM-ER-type weapon,” and on small reusable platforms like the F-35 Lightning II and unmanned aerial vehicles. HPM weapons are not yet a program of record, but they are desired in situations where one target building needs to be engaged and shut down, while not affecting the buildings around it. Other potential improvements could include increasing autonomy and putting it on hypersonic missiles.
At Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, the Air Force Research Laboratory has taken a Boeing AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile and rigged it to have the motor feed a high-power microwave to pulse directed energy beams through an antenna to carry out a “functional kill of adversaries’ military electronic and communications systems.” “It only works now off a B-52,” the bomber that currently carries the AGM-86 cruise missile, said Lt. Nicholas Quartermont of the Air Force Research Laboratory, but the service is also working on adapting the CHAMP system for weapons that can be launched by the F/A-18 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Dr. Robert Peterkin, Chief Scientist for Directed Energy said, “I’m particularly proud of the work my AFRL colleagues and I did to learn how to simulate with exquisite precision on large supercomputers all of the detailed physics of a new class of high power electromagnetic devices. This was a critical enabler for our well-known 2012 Counter-electronics High power microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) flight demonstration that dramatically demonstrated electromagnetic disruption of electronic systems.
In a 2012 test, a Boeing CHAMP (Counter-Electronics High-Power Advanced Missile Project) missile successfully disabled the electronics in a two-story building by firing high power microwaves. Every PC inside went dark within seconds, as did the building’s entire electrical system. The test was so successful that it also disabled cameras recording the event. Over the course of one hour, the missile knocked out electrical systems at seven selectively targeted buildings with little or no collateral damage.The CHAMP is superior to other electronic warfare weapons because it destroys electronics, rather than jamming which temporarily affects systems that come back online when it stops being applied.
Air Force has now selected the stealthy, long-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER) as the optimal air vehicle to carry the CHAMP weapon. Major general Thomas Masiello says the technology is mature and will be miniaturised to suite the JASSM-ER. “The capability is real … and the technology can be available today,” The Air Force Research Laboratory commander Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello said. “That’s an operational system already in our tactical air force.”
Russian scientists develop radioelectronic ammunition capable of disabling enemy’s equipment with the help of a powerful microwave impact. As adviser to the first deputy director general of the concern “Radioelectronic Technologies” Vladimir Mikheev, in the near future it is possible to create an “interference effect with the temporary withdrawal of enemy weapon systems and military equipment down to its full electronic damage”. Today, work on electronic warheads is conducted with the highest security stamp, added Mikheev.
Note that in 2011-2012 under the code “Alabuga” a complex of scientific researches was carried out, which made it possible to determine the main directions for the development of electronic weapons of the future. Currently, similar developments are also being conducted in the US and China. Pravda.ru previously wrote that the new state armament program until 2025 involves the development of high-precision weapons of the next generation and its supply to the Armed Forces of Russia.
Russia has announced earlier that its sixth generation combat drones would be fitted with microwave weapons. It also claimed that microwave weapons are already available with Russia, which can hit targets tens of kilometers away but the energy levels at which such weapons operate are unsafe for manned aircraft and therefore they will be positioned on combat drones likely to be operational by 2025.
According to a number of local media reports, deputy director of the Chinese Northwest Nuclear Technology Research Institute, Huang Wenhua researchers won the January 9 issue of the National Science and Technology Progress Award first prize. According to related reports, Huang Wenhua, deputy director and his team won the project is a high-power microwave anti-missile system, the system in November 18, 2010 in a place in northwest China conducted a shooting test and a success.
Saab’s future fast jet airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability
Saab in 2013 began its in-house study to characterise the future air operating environment so as to inform key requirements and technologies for combat aircraft in the 2035–40 period. One key conclusion to emerge from this work was the requirement for a credible AEA capability, supporting suppression of enemy air defences/destruction of enemy air defences, to improve aircraft survivability, and enable penetration of the A2/AD screen. “It turned out that EW came out as a common enabler,” Grönberg told Jane’s in a subsequent interview. “The survivability of any platform will require much enhanced EW capabilities. Even the latest low observable technology will not render an aircraft invisible.”
Outlining an increasingly complex and challenging anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environment, Jonas Grönberg, the company’s Head of Product Management for Fighter EW, argued that the emergence of new low-band early warning radars means “low observability is no longer a substantial defence for strike aircraft”, advocating instead “high-powered electronic attack to deny shared situational awareness and targeting data, and to negate data networks”.
Saab has unveiled details of a future fast jet airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability concept combining a high-power escort jamming pod, long-range air-launched decoys, and advanced electronic warfare (EW) operator control and fusion techniques.
Forming part of a wide internal studies package intended to identify technologies and inform investment decisions for a next-generation combat air capability, the future EW concept – given the umbrella name AREXIS – has already been briefed to the Swedish Air Force, the Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), and the Defence Research Agency (FOI). Saab sees the concept as being applicable to the existing JAS 39 Gripen line as well as future manned platforms.
Central to Saab’s thinking is the development of a self-contained (in cooling and power) electronic attack (EA) pod suitable for two-seat variants of the JAS 39 Gripen or other twin-crew fighter aircraft. EA pod concept studies and design, including the build of engineering mock-ups, have been founded on the reuse of technology building blocks previously developed for the Gripen E’s internal self-protection EW suite. The pod design developed by Saab incorporates VHF and UHF antennas in fin surfaces, with L-band and S-band active electronically scanned array antennas, based on gallium nitride technology, fitted front and rear.
The second element of the triad is a miniature air-launched decoy to perform both distraction and stand-in jamming. Saab has conceptualised a small, long-range, long-endurance decoy vehicle with an EW payload that can locate and identify threats and targets, and distract enemy air defence resources. The decoy will support an attack on a target defended by surface-to- air missile systems by acting as a stand-in jammer.
The third piece of the new concept is the development of a back-seat electronic warfare officer (EWO) station embodying advanced sensor data fusion and decision support techniques. Saab has already prototyped the EWO human machine interface in the simulator, and has shown it to the Swedish Air Force
China develops small sized High power Microwave Weapon
For over 6 years, Huang Wenhua and his team at the Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology in Xi’an have been working on a potent microwave weapon. This one, which recently won China’s National Science and Technology Progress Award, is small enough to fit on a lab work bench, making it theoretically portable enough for land vehicles and aircraft.
Said another way: it’s small enough to be convenient, but powerful enough to totally down enemy electronics. A microwave weapon like this could even be fitted to a missile (like the U.S. CHAMP electronic warfare missile) or drone. Carried in by a stealthy drone or cruise missile, it would be able to disable sophisticated enemy defenses like SAM and anti-ship missile batteries; fry enemy radars, communications, and control systems; paralyze tank battalions; and even neutralize other EW platforms.
EMP/high powered microwave cruise missiles, like the CHAMP, built by Boeing for DARPA, can sneak into enemy airspace to disable a wide range of C4ISR, air defense, missile and armored targets, even in some cases destroying electronic systems permanently. Such systems will become a necessary part of 21st-century warfare
References and Resources also include:
- Burning through the A2/AD wall: Saab studies airborne electronic attack concepts for future combat aircraft
Date Posted: 07-Sep-2017 , Author: Richard Scott, Publication: Jane’s International Defence Review