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Surprising Science

New Missile Is Lethal Only To Electronics

The US military has successfully tested a missile that uses microwaves to target a building's computers and electrical systems.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

The Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) passed tests at a site in Utah last week. The missile fired microwaves at several target buildings, which knocked out electrical systems and computers contained within. The project, a collaboration between Boeing Phantom Works and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, refutes claims from some critics that microwave weapons would never become a reality. Contrary to expectations, up to five prototype missiles could eventually be deployed.

What’s the Big Idea?

The ability to take out an enemy’s electronics without damaging buildings or injuring people is something the military has dreamed of since the first Cold War nuclear tests, when electromagnetic pulses unexpectedly damaged local power grids. CHAMP’s test was so successful that it accidentally fried some of the cameras recording it. Program manager Keith Coleman says, “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.” Without working electronics, the enemy would be “blind and unable to respond effectively to follow-up attacks by regular military forces.”

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