The Air Force's powerful new missile doesn't blow stuff up

The U.S. Air Force is out to wreck ISIS’s command and control capability. To do so, they are developing cruise missiles equipped with the ability to fire electromagnetic pulses (EMP).

An EMP weapon on a cruise missile can to fly over a city or populated area and fry phones, computers, power grids, and any other objects predetermined by strike planners.

An AGM-86 Cruise Missile (U.S. Air Force photo)

An AGM-86 Cruise Missile (U.S. Air Force photo)

EMPs create rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical and electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges. While most advanced military technologies are designed to be protected from an EMP attack, such weapons would be useful in the wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other non-state forces.

Nuclear weapons produce an EMP when exploding, but unlike during World War II, now the Air Force doesn’t have to nuke a city to fry a phone network.

The Air Force’s newest missile will be a CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-power microwave Advanced Missile Project. The CHAMP is just such an EMP weapon which the Air Force wants to modify cruise missiles to carry. The service just handed Raytheon $4.8 million to do it.

The 1950s-era B-52 bomber can carry up to 20 cruise missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The 1950s-era B-52 bomber can carry up to 20 cruise missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In an October 2012 demonstration, Boeing demonstrated the anti-electronics package could disable banks of computers at the Air Force Research Laboratory. That demonstration used conventional cruise missiles launched from a B-52 Stratofortress.

Laboratory officials confirmed the CHAMP system was capable of firing up to “100 shots per sortie” to fry military and commercial electronics. CHAMP can keep firing EMP as long as it has enough power.

(USAF-Boeing Concept)

(USAF-Boeing Concept)

“Our real goal is to take what we learned in CHAMP and apply it to the next weapon,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said at the Air Warfare Symposium in Florida last month. “We kept some, a very small number, so we have some capability with it now. Our intent is to move that to the next weapon, a more advanced weapon, and continue to modernize it.”