On October 16th, researchers from Boeing and the US Air Force successfully test-launched a missile capable of remotely disabling PCs and other electronics with only a burst of powerful radio waves. The test was held over the Western Utah Desert as part of the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), a collaborative effort from Boeing Phantom Works and the US Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate. The project's aim is to create a missile that can remotely paralyze electronic systems with minimal collateral damage — a capability that, according to Boeing, could one day transform modern warfare.
During last week's test, a CHAMP missile successfully disabled its target by firing high power microwaves at a two story building filled with computers and other electronics. Every PC inside went dark within seconds, as did the building's entire electrical system. The test was so successful, in fact, that it even disabled all cameras recording the event. Over the course of one hour, the CHAMP missile knocked out electrical systems at seven target buildings, with little or no collateral damage.
Recent years have seen a surge in the development of similarly electronic and non-lethal warfare. Both the Air Force and US Marine Corps have been looking to adopt the Next Generation Jammer as well as active phased array radar, which allows stealth ships and aircraft to remotely jam other radar systems.
It remains unclear whether Boeing's CHAMP missile will see deployment anytime soon, though CHAMP program manager Keith Coleman says last week's test marks an important step forward. "This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare," Coleman said. "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." In proving the missile's ability, he continued, "we made science fiction science fact."
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