U.S. defense officials may be getting serious about crafting defenses against EMP attack

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

I came across an interesting industry sources-sought notice in the government solicitations this morning. Scientists in at the Army Research Lab are looking for companies with know-how and experience in shielding against the effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) . The spectre of an EMP attack is a scary one.

EMP is among the effects of a nuclear explosion, and would cause devastating power surges in the electric power grids, automobiles, computers, and modern electric appliances that could shut the power off in large areas for long periods. Want more on EMP? See this week's story in USA Today entitled One EMP burst and the world goes dark .

A worst-case scenario has a high-altitude nuclear explosion over Kansas City, which could kill the power grid in the United States for as long as a year.

Think about that -- a year without electricity all over North America. Fuel, food, and drinking water would disappear quickly -- especially in the large cities; transportation and manufacturing would grind to a halt; cell phones and land lines would fall silent; little, if any, information would be available as the Internet would disappear; radio and TV stations would stop broadcasting, and newspapers and magazines would quit publishing; stores, restaurants, and hotels would be padlocked; hospitals would close; financial transactions would cease; the mail would stop; and companies would suspend business because their lights and machinery would not operate, and their employees could not get to work.

I could go on, but turn off the power in this country for a year and probably 80 percent of the population dies. The old, the very young, and those with medical conditions would go first. I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic, so I wouldn't survive long. Neither would most of the people I know.

So I'm heartened to see the military putting effort and money into finding ways to defend against EMP. The program the Army is talking about eventually could turn into a $7 million contract over five years. That's not a whole lot, by DOD standards, but it's a start.

It's long past time that the U.S. military and industry should start taking the EMP threat seriously.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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