U.S is taking preliminary measures to protect its air-space against EMP attacks. The protection works have started from guarding an air-base in Texas. This has concerned many as to why the government is taking these steps and whether there is a serious EM attack threat.
Officials from the Joint Base in San Antonio have called on for bids to assess a facility called as ‘Petroleum oil and lubrication complex.’ The survey is to assess possible pieces of equipment that could aid in increasing the EMP attack intensity. These triggers, upon being identified, would be sealed against an eventuality of an EMP attack, for both naturally occurring and human-induced.
An EMP is a massive explosion of electromagnetic energy which can be triggered through both natural phenomena or using nuclear weapons. Some experts believe that EMP’s don’t pose a significant threat, while others say that an EMP explosion could cause massive destruction in electricity-dependant vicinities.
“You can use a single weapon to collapse the entire North American power grid,” said defense analyst Peter Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Commission, which was set up to assess the threat of EMP attacks but shut down in 2017.
“Once the electric grid goes down, everything would collapse,” Pry told Live Science. “Everything depends on electricity: telecommunications, transportation, even water.”
The initial testing for guarding a Texas base’s air-space comes following a 2019 executive order issued by the former president of the U.S, Donald Trump. The order stated strengthening the U.S air-space against possible EMP explosions. Pry, an official who consulted on the project, said that “the survey and the following upgrades are part of a wide initiative by the U.S authorities to increase its defenses.
Triggers of EMP explosion
Pry stated, “If a nuclear weapon were to be detonated high in the atmosphere, the gamma radiation it would release could strip electrons from air molecules and accelerate them at close to the speed of light. Earth’s magnetic field would corral these charge-carrying electrons, and as they zipped around, they would generate a powerful, fluctuating electric current, which, in turn, would generate a massive EMP. The explosion could also distort Earth’s magnetic field, causing a slower pulse similar to a naturally occurring EMP.”
An EMP explosion of less intensity could also be triggered by attaching high-voltage power sources with tools that release energy as EMP waves. The U.S Army is designing a cruise missile that will carry an EMP generator. It is called the ‘Counter electronics high power microwave advanced missile project’ shortly abbreviated as CHAMP. It can be commissioned to target enemy base areas. Pry believes that many enemy states and terrorist organizations can build these EMP generators, hence, posing a significant threat.
“We’ve arrived at a place where a single individual can topple the technological pillars of civilization for a major metropolitan area all by himself armed with some device like this,” Pry added.
The installed air-space protecting technology functions the same as the technology used to prevent damage from power breakages caused by lightning or natural occurring phenomenons. The protection job could be better done if more of the voltage absorbing and shield from electromagnetic devices are installed. These devices are also known as surge protectors and divert intense electric voltages into the earth.
Pry stated of the EMP commission measured the cost for the project to be around $4 billion. But also said that it is worth spending as it would secure essential equipment in the national grid. He concluded by saying that a significant standard change is needed in the EMP protecting tech and that future sees EMP protection incorporated into devices.