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The Military The Almighty Buck United States

The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles (vox.com) 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: According to an NBC News report, the weapon -- which is still under development -- could be put on a cruise missile and shot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. It's designed to use microwaves to target enemy military facilities and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles. The weapon itself wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties. Air Force developers have been working with Boeing on the system since 2009. They're hoping to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill. There's just one problem. It's not clear that the weapon is entirely ready for use -- and it's not clear that it would be any more effective than the powerful weapons the U.S. already possesses. The weapon, which has the gloriously military-style name of Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, isn't quite ready for action, but it could be soon. Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
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The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles

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  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @11:33PM (#55699655)

    Because that's how you get popcorn.

    • Designing the system to cook people would be more effective, as the weapons would be shielded.
      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @01:24AM (#55699961)

        Designing the system to cook people would be more effective, as the weapons would be shielded.

        This system would require a lot of lead time to load the B-52, takeoff, fly to NK airspace, launch the cruise missile, and wait for its subsonic engines to propel it to the target.

        The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. They were able to fuel and prepare the missile for launch without detection.

        This microwave system would be worthless at countering a NK missile launch. It would only be useful as a first strike weapon. Fear of an American preemptive strike is exactly what motivated NK to develop their nukes in the first place.

        Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by BronsCon ( 927697 )

          Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

          We already know. We are not the orange buffoon who doesn't know.

          • by sysrammer ( 446839 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @03:59AM (#55700225) Homepage

            Well, just to play devil's advocate, what has worked?

            • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @09:03AM (#55700769)

              Diplomacy, open trade, and international organizations. It's not as sexy as nukes and special forces, but the current stability of the world (and it is in an unprecedented state of stability) is almost certainly due to those things.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by dcw3 ( 649211 )

                Yeah sure. Please point to any time since the Korean war where that's worked with North Korea. Oops, you can't.

              • "unprecedented state of stability"

                I'm not sure I'd call the world's current state "stable", but I suppose the current state of affairs is better than nations declaring war and shooting at each other.

                If that is your yardstick, then you could just as easily claim that the advent and proliferation of nuclear weapons is exactly what has kept WWIII from occurring.

                • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @10:45AM (#55701255)

                  Don't believe what the media tells you. The actual numbers say the world has less violence and is more stable today than it ever has been. It's been getting more so for a thousand years, even if you include the 20th century wars.

                  When you go country-by-country, the factors that emerge as contributing to stability, peace and prosperity are engagement with the international community and international trade ties. The trends were present well before nukes were invented. Nukes may explain why we haven't had any of the largest kinds of wars recently, but they really don't work as a good explanation on any other level, even limited to post 1945: all the nuclear powers have been involved in wars, and several of them aren't or weren't exactly what you'd call stable or peaceful.

              • Except that they haven't worked, The ceasefire was signed in 1953, it's now 2017 and things haven't changed much. Every couple years NK starts rattling their sabers again. Even more so every time we get a new President. Back in 94 when I was in Basic they were pushing hard realizing that Clinton was more of a pushover than Reagan or Bush I had been.
        • "The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. "

          Incorrect. I read in one of the Korean news sites about it a day or two before the launch. The stuff that leaks out of the military probably has a day or two delay. I would expect the mil to have at least a 2 day warning on something like this. (I looked up the Korean site because I saw an article in one of the US mainstream sites.)

          Remember, intelligence such as "order Lobster and lot's of munchies for launch site 11" would be correlated at the NSA

        • This system would require a lot of lead time to load the B-52, takeoff, fly to NK airspace, launch the cruise missile, and wait for its subsonic engines to propel it to the target.

          The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. They were able to fuel and prepare the missile for launch without detection.

          This is why the US needs Prompt Global Strike

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • Not just first strike. It would prevent any further command center functions before carpet bombing them back to the stone age. Though, I don't really think it should spare personnel or buildings in that case. Maybe that is only there to appease the pacifists.

        • This microwave system would be worthless at countering a NK missile launch. It would only be useful as a first strike weapon. Fear of an American preemptive strike is exactly what motivated NK to develop their nukes in the first place.

          All this is assuming the news report itself is not complete boloney that is simply designed to cause a reaction so the recon analysts can see which ones of the 258 suspected high tech and nuclear weapons sites in N-Korea show a sudden flurry of activity erecting screen defences against a first strike with a microwave weapon.

          • And in Iran. I suppose they may be talking because they've learned the project's cover is blown, though that's no reason they couldn't try for a little intel with your idea anyway even if the project is real (well - and actually works...).
        • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @06:16AM (#55700417)

          This system would require a lot of lead time to load the B-52, takeoff, fly to NK airspace, launch the cruise missile, and wait for its subsonic engines to propel it to the target.

          The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. They were able to fuel and prepare the missile for launch without detection.

          The US could keep a flight/flights of CHAMP-equipped-cruise missile-carrying B52s on station 24/7/365 as the old Soviet Union and NATO used to so during the Cold War.

          Really though, as someone with extensive high-powered RF engineering experience including radar and microwave, I have serious doubts about how effective such a weapon could be IRL. The inverse-square law of transmitted power, distance to receiver/tarfet, and signal strength/current/voltage/thermal heating induced means it would also require enormous amounts of power, especially with a size-limited transmission antenna array due to it all being crammed into a cruise missile.

          It's extremely inefficient energy-transfer wise. Only a tiny fraction of the power transmitted actually reaches the intended target (or receiver in the case of radio). Unless they can pack 1.21 gigawatts (or some similar ridiculously-huge number) into a cruise missile, I can't see how this could possibly be effective and practical as a weapon.

          Sounds more like propaganda for both domestic (look! we're doing...something!) and NK consumption (we'll blind you with Science! [insert cheesy Thomas Doolby '80s pop tune]) while doubling as a handy excuse to hand out US defense money for the usual reasons.

          Strat

        • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @06:44AM (#55700469)

          Fear of an American preemptive strike is exactly what motivated NK to develop their nukes in the first place.

          Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

          You grossly misunderstand North Korea. The U.S. has had the capability to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea unchallenged for over 65 years and hasn't done so. There isn't much else it can/could have done to assuage North Korea's fears and convince it that it wasn't going to attack (at least not without opening up South Korea to another North Korean attack - North Korea's two top goals are to drive the U.S. out of the peninsula, and to reunify it, by violent means if necessary).

          Even the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea (about 37,000) aren't sufficient in number to represent any meaningful offensive fighting force if the U.S. did decide to launch a preemptive strike(North Korea has just shy of 1 million active military personnel). The U.S. troops there know it too. They call themselves "speed bumps." Their sole purpose is, in the event of a North Korean invasion, to be overrun and killed, so that the U.S. has an excuse to immediately get involved in a second Korean War without having to go through the UN like the first time (which only succeeded because the USSR was boycotting the UN that week)..

          North Korea's ire against the U.S. isn't based on paranoia. It's based on propaganda. Any repressive system generates extreme discontent within its population, which eventually leads to uprising and revolution. Unless you can present the people with an external bogeyman that they can fear and hate instead of their oppressive overload. North Korea has chosen the U.S. to be that bogeyman. They teach [dailynk.com] their grade schoolers [sapardanis.org] to want to attack Americans [all-that-i...esting.com] for crying out loud. Please, educate yourself on what actually goes on in North Korea before you believe their claims of victimhood.

          In a way, North Korea is a test for what the world's future will be like. You attribute the lack of a violent confrontation with North Korea for 65 years to the effectiveness of a pacifist approach to them. My hunch is that it's more because North Korea simply didn't have the capability to strike outside of its borders effectively. The nukes aren't going to end with North Korea. On the contrary, this is just the beginning. First it'll be rogue nation-states getting nukes. Then rogue organizations. Then rogue individuals. You're not going to be able to appease them all by being pacifist. At some point, one of them is going to be sufficiently offended or self-deluded to actually use those nukes.

          The world needs to come up with some effective strategy for dealing with the proliferation of nukes. I honestly don't know what the best approach is (if it were simple, we would've already done it). I'm extremely troubled by Trump's aggressive attitude towards North Korea, but I can kinda see his point. We've known for decades that North Korea was a cancer in the socio-political fabric of the world. If it had been excised early on, we wouldn't be having this problem today. But instead we did nothing, taking the pacifist approach and hoping the problem would go away by itself. Well, it hasn't, and now it has nukes. And like I said, this isn't just about North Korea. This is just the beginning. Next it'll be rogue organizations with nukes, then rogue individuals with nukes. I really hope we can establish some effective way to deal with them, or we're doomed. We're going to look back at the time when terrorists brought down airliners with a bomb as the good old days.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kilfarsnar ( 561956 )

            North Korea's ire against the U.S. isn't based on paranoia. It's based on propaganda. Any repressive system generates extreme discontent within its population, which eventually leads to uprising and revolution. Unless you can present the people with an external bogeyman that they can fear and hate instead of their oppressive overload. North Korea has chosen the U.S. to be that bogeyman. They teach [dailynk.com] their grade schoolers [sapardanis.org] to want to attack Americans [all-that-i...esting.com] for crying out loud. Please, educate yourself on what actually goes on in North Korea before you believe their claims of victimhood.

            The ironic thing to me is that this describes the United States as well. Just reverse the names, and the paragraph still works. We don't demonize North Korea in our text books, but the rest is pretty accurate.

            We've known for decades that North Korea was a cancer in the socio-political fabric of the world. If it had been excised early on, we wouldn't be having this problem today. But instead we did nothing, taking the pacifist approach and hoping the problem would go away by itself. Well, it hasn't, and now it has nukes.

            You think McArthur should have been allowed to go all the way to the Chinese border? You think the US would have prevailed in a war with China? I think you need to read up on the history if you think the US has taken a pacifist approach to North Korea. We killed 600,000 civilians there. "Hoping t

          • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

            I wish I had mod points for you. As someone who spent six years working over there, I'm in full agreement with what you've stated here. I will add that I feel for the people of NK because they quite simply don't know anything about the outside world unless they're part of the ruling class.

        • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @07:04AM (#55700505)

          There is no convincing the Norks the U.S. doesn't desire to own a poor country with nothing going for it. The intellectual giants running N. Korea only keep the threat of U.S. intervention alive so they can give the public a reason why they should stay in power and shouldn't be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

        • Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

          Well, every attempt to negotiate or appease North Korea has also lead to paranoia and weapons development.

          Maybe someday we'll all learn that not every situation is like a school exam [youtu.be] or a video game where there is a right answer that resolves things cleanly.

          • Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

            Well, every attempt to negotiate or appease North Korea has also lead to paranoia and weapons development.

            You sure about that? http://www.independent.co.uk/v... [independent.co.uk]

            • Clinton got played (and I say this as someone that's voted 'Clinton' 5 times already), and so did South Korea. North Korea never dismantled their nuclear program, as was obvious from being ready for tests. They never stopped counterfeiting US dollars or using their 'credentialed' diplomats to run drugs and ivory [wikipedia.org].

              Their MO is pretty clear: do bad things, expect to be rewarded for stopping them, then do them again in order to extract more concessions. Most of the world is wise to this game after this many iter

        • The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. They were able to fuel and prepare the missile for launch without detection.

          That is incorrect. I read a news report out of Tokyo that NK appeared to be preparing for a ballistic missile test about 6 hours before the launch occurred. (Quick Googling find one such source [dailycaller.com] here)

          That's not to say that a surprise launch cannot occur, just that we have so far managed to detect them in advance.

        • Maybe someday America will learn that you don't convince your adversary to stop being paranoid by threatening to attack them.

          You are aware we have tried to negotiate with them, right? We gave them aid, asking them to stop developing nukes. They agreed, then immediately went about developing nukes in secret until inspectors were told to take a hike. More than once we've gone down the 'let's play nice' game only to have the North Koreans breaking the agreements.

          Negotiation kinda requires that both sides be faithful to the agreements. North Korea has repeatedly shown it will not adhere to any agreements and will break them whene

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          "The NK missile launch last week occurred with NO warning. "

          No public warning. There's zero chance that we didn't know about the planned launch.

        • The actual launch may be from South Korea, but it'd be destabilizing to advertise that.

          Here's hoping the weapon isn't another Bradly that only works on paper.
        • You're just being paranoid...

          Yeah, that's only because everyone is out to kill me.

        • I think the idea would be to have them on a ship, that is sitting next to NK.

      • Designing the system to cook people would be more effective ...

        Or almost cook. It worked for the Cubans. At least that's what I'm guessing they used.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      popcorn

      I believe that was the laser based weapon.

    • No, that is just the NK early warning system.

      Sir, apparently they had advance warning our missiles were inbound.
      How is this possible?
      They have corn.
      Dear God!

    • Val Kilmer is a Real Genius when it comes to microwave weapons and popcorn.
    • Popcorn? I was thinking Top Ramen noodles.
  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @11:49PM (#55699711)

    Finally, a reason to spend billions more on missile defense. The arms industry will be very happy indeed.

    • High energy ground based lasers, using adaptive optics to reduce atmospheric distortion, could reliably block North Korean missiles from hitting America. All the technology exists for this.
  • to stimulate scientific progress.
    • Correct. Many of the scientific advances we enjoy came from war. The Nobel Prize came from a man unhappy his invention helped kill.
    • ...stimulate corporate progress

      Now we know what's going on - there's a company with some multi-billion dollar tech, there's the US government and a wonky foreign state. One tells the other to do something to the last one. We've been down this road before, and it didn't go terribly well.

  • Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP

    Someone needs to explain to the military how acronyms work.

    • I still remember when a group out of UW's CSE tried to get away with referring to their project as "FRITTER", even though the first two words were "Radio Frequency".

    • They know how acronyms work. That's why they didn't try to make us pronounce CEHPMAMP.

  • "wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties."

    Unless a cooked brain is considered a casualty. Medium or well-done; how much does it take to disrupt neural pathways? How much does it take to disrupt circuit pathways?

  • So it would probably be just as effective to parachute drop a few hundred standard microwave ovens and several thousand cases of Marie Callender Pot Pies on the country.

    While the people are busy eating, a special commando team could easily disable the rockets.

    • So it would probably be just as effective to parachute drop a few hundred standard microwave ovens and several thousand cases of Marie Callender Pot Pies on the country.

      Self-heating MREs will work a lot better, unless your plan is to blow out their electrical grid when all their citizens try to run a microwave at the same time.

  • North Korea has crazy anti-air defenses. All their missiles would be in the air long before the B-52s made it near the launch facilities. A first strike would involve stealth bombers. Now, if these cruise missiles were launched from the ground near the DMZ after their radar installations were taken out, that might make some sense... except the launch facilities are going to be a top-priority target, above radar installations.
    Also, it's a bit of an assumption that their ballistic missiles are aimed electroni

    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      B-52 is poor choice in nk*

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        B-52 has big new engines to consider. Relaxing glass cockpit for crew. Mission after mission over the sides of mountains hiding NK artillery.
        NK has no airforce so it won't be like Vietnam. Stealth will remove all SAM before b-52 arrive over NK.
        No need for anything fancy like Operation Bolo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        Just keep the B-52 missions to a set and predictable 24/7 timetable. Just like stealth flights over Serbia.
        Keep crews working with stop-loss.
    • Also, it's a bit of an assumption that their ballistic missiles are aimed electronically rather than by turning mechanical wheels like old artillery.

      An ICBM isn't going to get where it's going without electronics. It might get somewhere, but no guarantees it'll go where you want it. That kind of thing is sometimes acceptable with conventional explosives, but never with nukes.

  • Also, they have never heard of aluminum foil or metal screen mesh.
    • This weapon is useful against people who have progressed beyond purely mechanical/chemical weapons and are dependent on electronics... but who haven't quite caught on to shielding those electronics against EMPs.

      I mean, anyone who has heard of nukes has heard of the EMP they generate that fries electronics, right? What's a tiny HERF weapon compared to that when you're talking shielding?

      • by Ed_1024 ( 744566 )

        I agree. If you can design something to withstand direct lightning strikes, like an aircraft engine and its control unit, then microwaves are easy in comparison. You dont even have to make it perfectly as at microwave wavelengths even a loose mesh appears like a solid conductor (see ovens)...

        Sounds like another boondoggle.

    • err, the target is systems with antennae...you know, the ones that have to emit and receive microwave radation

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer&earthlink,net> on Friday December 08, 2017 @02:08AM (#55700031)

    I get the impression that the military just grabs words out of a hat for the next weapon system and makes up an acronym to fit. I can do that too.

    High
    Energy
    Radio
    Output
    Emitter
    System

    or

    Weapon
    Intercept for
    Nuclear and
    Non-nuclear
    Enemy
    Rockets

    Who else wants to try? Here's a tough one: VICTORY

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @03:35AM (#55700185)
    Now we have time to refine our missiles so that they're not micro-waves sensitive. Best, KJU
  • by cstacy ( 534252 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @04:06AM (#55700235)

    The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles

    Has it been testing it in Cuba?

  • Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project =
    CeHMPAMP
    or at best
    CHMAMP

    At this point, why bother with matching abbreviations. Call it Big Microwave Shooter Missile, or CHAMP.

    • ..or just go with full-on propaganda - call it the PeaceMaker, or RainbowMaker or FluffyKitten, HammerDontHurtEm or BigHugs or some such.

    • It seems like an unfortunate choice of name in any case: all it will take is one public failure in it's deployment (if it gets around to that) and it'll forever be known as "CHUMP".

  • A Cuba-like embargo would have more effect possibly. And this is probably some program director trying to save his program by connecting it to a current threat, however ludicrous it may be to use it for THAT.

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