U.S. Air Force researchers are refining a first-of-its-kind airborne system that targets electronics. They seek to reduce its size and weight while also designing the technology for integration with a wide array of unmanned platforms and ensuring it doesn’t perform a metaphorical suicide via electrocution. At the same time, the service is conducting a study to establish a forward path for the high-powered microwave pulse weapon and deliver it to warfighters.
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) would deliver microwaves from an aircraft or missile, effectively walloping a target’s data and electronic subsystems. The radio frequency emission has a focused beam that can be accurately pointed at a specific building.
The nonkinetic and nonlethal system is capable of defeating electronics while minimizing collateral damage. It can deliver a functional kill to many targets without destroying buildings or taking lives. The CHAMP weapon will provide the warfighter with the first aerial, high-powered microwave pulse counterelectronics capability that could lead the way to a new breed of nonlethal but highly effective weapons, according to AFRL officials.
“One of the big advantages would be taking out an integrated air defense system temporarily, where you could blind them for the amount of time you might need to do an ingress without actually having to do kinetic damage to these sites,” explains Greg Zacharias, Air Force chief scientist. “You could also go after command and control systems and anything that is dependent on the bits and bytes of adversary systems.”