High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse

High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse

A High-altitude Electromagnetic Pulse, or HEMP, is emanated from the detonation of a single nuclear warhead several kilometers into the atmosphere. In the absence of proper shielding, it can destroy electronics vital to telecommunications and computing by generating a current that will overload highly sensitive integrated circuits.

According to Aviation Week (June 18th, 2007 pg 49) the possibility that North Korea, Pakistan, and/or Iran possess nuclear weapons and missile technology makes the threat of an HEMP very real. "A single 10-50 kiloton weapon detonated 60 mi. or more in space would knock out all unprotected low Earth orbit satellites in months, possibly weeks." Military equipment and space assets, particularly equipment related to command and control or nuclear response, are heavily shielded to ensure that the military infrastructure would not be effected by a HEMP event. Still the economic effects of a loss of commercial low Earth orbit satellites would be sizable. The Federation of American Scientists [http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/emp.htm Nuclear Weapon EMP Effects] agree that a properly attenuated strike over the geographic center of the continental United States could theoretically affect the entire Lower 48 states. In fact, it could damage any material capable of carrying an electric current within the line of sight (in overall electromagnetic spectrum terms, not simply visible light) of the blast.

HEMP in the acronym soup of military electromagnetic pulse is also used as an acronym for Hydrodynamic Electromagnetic Pulse, a form of EMP that is not well described in unclassified literature, but that is of considerable concern to designers of electronic systems that must function in wartime, because it may propagate in ways that the customary design precautions against ordinary electromagnetic pulse would not attenuate adequately.

External links

* [http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs/permalink/meta-crs-6028 Read Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding HEMP]
* [http://assist.daps.dla.mil/quicksearch/basic_profile.cfm?ident_number=204459 MIL-STD-188-125-1]


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