Air Force Studying Feasibility of Combat Aircraft EMP Weapons

Artist's rendering of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon detonation.

Artist's rendering of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon detonation.

August 14, 2017 | Source: Military & Aerospace Electronics, militaryaerospace.com, 2 May 2017, John Keller

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – High-power electromagnetics (HPEM) experts at the Raytheon Co. will help the U.S. Air Force determine the feasibility of using electronics-killing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons aboard combat aircraft under terms of a $15 million contract announced on Tuesday.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., are asking the Raytheon Missile Systems segment in Albuquerque, N.M., to investigate ways to integrate future high-power electromagnetics (HPEM) technologies into aircraft weapons.

An HPEM weapon, in theory, would emit a short burst of EMP -- or an electromagnetic disturbance -- that would damage or destroy targeted electronic systems such as radar, communications, power grids, land vehicles, and aircraft.

The effects of an HPEM would be similar to those of a lightning strike or the EMP generated by the detonation of a nuclear weapon. In other words it could destroy or damage any kind of unshielded modern electronics, ranging from computers, to electric generators, to small appliances.

The contract is part of the Air Force Research Lab's High-Powered Electromagnetics (HPEM) Research Program, begin two years ago to advance the state of the art in HPEM technologies for directed-energy weapons and a variety of other aerospace and defense uses.