Friday, July 11, 2008

EMP - the Iranian weapon of choice?

Investor's Business Daily reported on a July 10 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in which William Graham, former science advisor to President Reagan, presented a report by the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. EMP are generated by nuclear explosions, 40 to 400 kilometers above the earth's surface. They are designed to disrupt or distroy the electronic systems and electrical infrastructure below them.

As Graham said in his testimony: "Iran...has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Iran has also tested high-altitude explosions of the Shahab III, a test mode consistent with EMP attack, and described the tests as successful. Iranian military writings explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States."

Increased dependence on commercial technologies that are not sturdy enough to withstand such attacks has apparently enhanced U.S. military vulnerability. And the increased use of electronics by everyone else makes the civilian economy vulnerable too. Graham estimates that, through a mix of public and private initiatives and with modest public funding, this vulnerability could be significantly decreased in 3-5 years.

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