EMP is a concept by which a sharp spike in the time-domain for electromagnetic energy can cause a wide bandwidth frequency range of energy transmitted. If this energy reaches electronic equipment after attenuation and propagation loss (1/r^2) of sufficient energy and the frequencies are such that the electronic equipment is susceptible, it can cause disruption of the equipment’s functionality. Basically it is like a shotgun or waterspray with respect to electromagnetic energy.
So there are allegedly new EMP weapons from China. The concept has been known since around the 1940s/50s when nuclear bomb testing would knock out electronics. One time a nuclear test knocked out equipment in Hawaii. So Nuclear EMP (NEMP) is one of the most influential types of EMP. Congress commissioned a study in, I believe, the 1980s which detailed how an airborne nuclear blast could conceivably knock out much of the electrical equipment in the continental US through the power grid and direct influence on automobiles and other electronic equipment. There are other ways that EMP is produced, though. Lightning is a natural source but not usually effective unless the electronics are close to the strike. Man made sources include some type of directed energy weapons with fancy sci-fi looking antennas and massive energy sources. Another one could be a cheaply built device called a Flux Compression Generator (FCG) that could be employed by terrorists (for around $2k). It is a concern especially for aircraft because it can be detonated (uses high explosives to cause the effect) near a plane and fully disable it. Planes today are fully dependent upon electronics (no more cables to control your ailerons). As electronics devices get smaller and more efficient, they are many times more susceptible to EMP as well. On can fairly easily destroy a smart phone today if you want (Electrical Engineers in my field consider it sometimes for annoying drivers on their cellphones).
It would be difficult and costly to really guard against a big EMP attack. It was known between Russia and the US during the cold war and always a consideration and strategy to use EMP. In fact, the Russian planes were more tolerant to EMP than the US counterparts due to using older tube technology. Today we test equipment to high standards under Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) standards. Much goes on in the background that consumers do not know about before electronics gets in their hands. The CE and FCC that you see on your computer or smart phone means that it has been tested to certain standards including the EMC criteria. Ensuring equipment meets these standards helps protect some against EMP.
Right now the hype is about China’s secret weapon. But realize that the technology has really always been there. We just enabled them to spend some time and money by offshoring and through teaching Chinese engineers and scientists here in the US. It was inevitable but we accelerated and paid for any threat from China or other countries instead of investing in our own people. It would be nice to have a global community but we will never really have that until we have a global government.
Radiofrequency (RF) hardware design, EMC/EMI analysis and 3D Electromagnetic simulation. We also provide Technology advise for investors and executives.
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