Though the U.S. and its Asian allies have focused primarily on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, some experts say that Russia is now a bigger threat to launch what is known as an “electromagnetic pulse” (EMP) attack, one that could substantially disable national power grids.
Russia’s new Alabuga EMP weapons program is described by the country’s media as aimed at the development of tactical weapons that would only affect small regions. Weapons being designed under this program are not said to be designed to knock out an entire country’s grid.
“One component of the program involves the development of an EMP missile that emits an electromagnetic pulse 200-300 meters above an enemy position by means of a high-frequency high-power electromagnetic field generator,” according to an article in Rossiyskaya Gazeta and translated by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.
“This EMP would create an ultra high frequency (UHF) field of approximately 3.5 kilometers, not only disabling computers, radars, communications systems and precision weapons, but also making them unusable by damaging their electronic components. Although the system is nonlethal and causes no adverse effects to humans, the electromagnetic effects of the missile (up to 100 gigawatts) are reportedly comparable to a nuclear weapon,” the article, via translation, continued.
In addition, the U.S. Army translated another article discussing a ground-based EMP weapon designed to bring down enemy aircraft.
“The Ranets-Ye is based on a MAZ-543 wheeled chassis, weighing around 5 tons. The Ranets-Ye is essentially a short-range surface-to-air system in which the kill element utilized is not a missile, but a 60 degree cone of 500 megawatt SFH radiation that lasts 20 nanoseconds. This EMP is capable of neutralizing all aircraft, cruise missiles, and any munition with electronics. At a range of 8-14 kilometers [4 to 8 miles] the EMP destroys electronic components, and disrupts electronic at a range of up to 40 kilometers [24 miles]. The Ranets-Ye consists of a diesel generator, electromagnetic pulse generator, and targeting radar. The system is also reportedly capable of integrating into air defense networks, in order to obtain targeting data.” [source]
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