2008: The U.S. government is having a
hard time getting $5 billion out of Congress to protect major utility
(electrical power) and industrial facilities from an EMP (Electromagnetic
Pulse), which could destroy most of the military and civilian electronics. The
danger is this. Any nation with a satellite launch capability, could put a nuclear
weapon in low orbit (about 200-300 kilometers up). Once the nuclear bomb is detonated, it creates an EMP
which would destroy most of the unshielded military and civilian electronics
within one or two thousand kilometers. For the U.S., that would mean most
electronics would be damaged, many to the point where they no longer worked.
The economy would stagger to a halt, and it would take months to get back to
something resembling normal. In the meantime there would be widespread
starvation, less medical care and a lot of general unpleasantness.
would be nasty side effects to such a high altitude nuclear blast. It would create a temporary belt of intense radiation,
which would destroy or damage many of the low earth orbit satellites up there.
There would be $100 billion, or more, in damage to these satellites, and
several years of disrupted communications, GPS and weather prediction service
until all the damaged satellites could be replaced.
of collateral damage leads many military and political leaders to believe that
no one would use an EMP attack. Then again, what's to prevent Iran or North
Korea from setting off a nuke in low orbit, just to mess up everyone's
satellites? Sounds like a great extortion opportunity. This is one reason more
and more satellites are being hardened to resist the kind of radiation surge
high altitude EMP would produce. But most of the stuff in low orbit is not
hardened, and even the birds that are so protected, are not invulnerable to
EMP, just less vulnerable.
military electronics systems are being hardened (adding shielding against the
EMP), that increases the cost of the electronics 10-20 percent. This has been
going on for decades, as during the Cold War troops were trained to keep going
after the nukes began falling. But there is no incentive to harden consumer or
industrial electronics. That's where the $5 billion comes in. It's to pay for
hardening key items that would make recovery from an EMP attack much quicker
(and less devastating in the first place.)
military electronic would survive an EMP attack, retaliation (with an EMP
attack, or just nukes for the sake of pure destruction) would take place.
Another disincentive for anyone thinking of using the strategic EMP weapon.