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Monday, March 14, 2005

The Pulse

Senator Jon Kyl writes in RealClearPolitics.com about a very dangerous terrorist theat:

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack over American soil, one of the expert witnesses at the hearing said, is one of only a few ways that America could be essentially defeated by our enemies, terrorist or otherwise. A single nuclear weapon, detonated at the right altitude, would produce an electromagnetic pulse that - depending on its location and size - would knock out power grids and other electrical systems across much of the country, for months if not years. Few if any people would die right away. But the long-term loss of electricity would essentially bring our society to a halt. Communication would be almost impossible. Powerless refrigerators would leave food rotting in warehouses, marooned by a lack of transportation as those vehicles still operable simply run out of gas (which can't be pumped without electricity). The unavailability of clean water would quickly threaten public health, not to mention leave the inevitable fires raging unchecked. As we have seen in areas of natural and other disasters, this kind of scenario often results in a fairly rapid breakdown of social order.
Of course this is the premise behind the Dark Angel TV show (no word if Kyl is making sure our genetically enhanced warriors don't get loose if this happens) but despite that, this is a serious danger. Senator Kyl has some thoughts on how to ensure a quick recovery from this sort of disaster, which is probably good. Better would be serious efforts to prevent it from happening in the first place. Destroying Al-Qaida and preventing any rogue nation from Acquiring WMDs would be a good start. Enhancing our 'on the group' intelligence capabilities would be smart as well.

10 Comments:

Blogger tsykoduk said...

EMP is a very potent weapon when used agenst a moderatly high tech society like ours. This is a very good article about the effects of EMP.

I do not have a source on this, however I belive that the weapon to take out the US would need to be on the scale of 100 megatons. I know that Russia had been working on such a weapon, but I do not know if they ever completed it. If not, such a beast probally does not exist at this time.

I think that this threat, while real, is over hyped. There are several large issues with a terrorist group mounting such an attack.

1) You have to get the weapon 200 miles over Kansas. Other detonation spots would be suboptimal.

2) You have to get a fragging huge Nuke.

3) Much of the contries military would survive. Many of the important systems in the command and control facilities are hardened vs just such an attack. They were built to survive an all out nuclear attack after all. So, our counterpunch probally would not leave much of the terrorist's countries left.

4) It would probally spark off a major exchange in which no one would win. It seems to me that the terrorist plans include them ruling when they are done, no?

Some say that in a conflict in space, the major weapons would be EMP and High Radiation nukes.

3/14/2005 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

You make some good points, and thanks for the link to that article. That is great.

As to points 1, and 2, I think that is true for something that would take out the entire U.S. (excepting Alaska and Hawaii perhaps) but a more localized effect, say all of New England or Seattle or San Francisco and Silicon Valley would be enough to hurt bad.

As to #4, I wouldn't want to bet my economy on the rationality of Bin Laden or Kin Jung Il. Both seem to live partly in the real world, but also partly in a fantasy world that makes them very dangerous.

The Mullahs of Iran are more rational, but I could imagine them trying something like this as a last ditch gamble in the face of a crumbling regime. And I could see Iran doing something like this to Tel Aviv, which would hurt us a lot less directly, but could cause huge problems.

3/14/2005 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last week on 24 a defense contractor used a prototype EMP to knock out their computers--and half of LA--so that Jack couldn't get the docs that would prove they were selling weapons tech to terrorists.

It didn't really add to the conversation, but that's all I got.

Rob A.
(F?WF?)

3/14/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last week on 24 a defense contractor used a prototype EMP to knock out their computers--and half of LA--so that Jack couldn't get the docs that would prove they were selling weapons tech to terrorists.

It didn't really add to the conversation, but that's all I got.

Rob A.
(F?WF?)

3/14/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last week on 24 a defense contractor used a prototype EMP to knock out their computers--and half of LA--so that Jack couldn't get the docs that would prove they were selling weapons tech to terrorists.

It didn't really add to the conversation, but that's all I got.

Rob A.
(F?WF?)

3/14/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger tsykoduk said...

Woohboy, and did you add :)

Honestly, I would be more concerned about a T getting a smaller nuke and blowing it in a populated area. If I were a T and I had a nuke, would I try and get it to the altitude that an EMP would cover the most ground, or would I rent a storage unit in LA and blow it there?

Now, reading that article further, EMP only weapons can be built easily. These are non-nuclear, so many of the nuke detection systems would not work. There was a very good book that I read back in the stone ages (highschool) that dealt with and EMP exchange with the USSR. I will look for the book's name (as I want to read it again anyways)

3/14/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, sorry about that Dave.

I guess I got Blogger impatient.

Rob A.
(F?WF?)

3/14/2005 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Guess I'll have to charge you triple the regular comment fee Rob :)

3/15/2005 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Cubicle said...

two things to add here.

guns will still work (excpet those in New Jeresy).

Secondly, this is from an friend on mine in the airforce. He worked on the radar pods.

The russiaians had ananlog equipment which is impervious to EMPS, where our equipment is not. he said that the russians were able to to everything we did digitally in analog (which was real suprising). I do not know if that is true, but my friend did recive good trianing and is knowelable in that area.

3/15/2005 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Wasn't that the plot device in that 80's miniseries Amerika?

3/15/2005 07:49:00 AM  

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