We Have a New Weapon

And it’s a doozy. In the tradition of giving cute names to terrifying weapons (eg, Fat Man and Little Boy, Bubble Girl, Busy Lobster, etc.), this one is called CHAMP.

Remember the neutron bomb as the ultimate symbol of man’s depravity, because it killed people with a powerful blast of radiation, but left buildings standing? (And even a neutron bomb would do real damage in its initial blast radius.) Well, CHAMP is a kinder, gentler missile: it’s designed to just take out your iPod. And your TV. And your computer. And all you surveillance equipment and countmeasures. (And maybe your pacemaker or life-support system, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.)

CHAMP stands for Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it’s the product of Boeing’s Phantom Works. CHAMP does a flyby of targets, taking out electronics as it goes. You can check out the video from Boeing, but its first test was a rousing success:

CHAMP flew over the Utah Test and Training Range last Tuesday, discharging a burst of High Power Microwaves onto the test site and brought down the compound’s entire spectrum of electronic systems, apparently without producing any other damage at all. Even the camera recording the test was shut down.

Struggling to contain his enthusiasm, Boeing’s Keith Coleman says, “We hit every target we wanted to. Today we made science fiction into science fact.”

Is this a good thing? You bet. And also a bit scary. With America’s dependence on electronic warfare, we have a great deal to lose from a weapon like this getting out. And they always get out, eventually. Better shielding and countermeasures will no doubt be developed to blunt its effectiveness, but that kind of thing takes time and money.

All our great toys and tech may one day be brought down, and Einstein’s prophecy will come true: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

UPDATE: As Frank Weathers points out, bayonets and horses will be unaffected.

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Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.