A new, non-lethal microwave weapon is causing a great deal of excitement in the military and aerospace (mil/aero) community. Military officials the world over have been asking for new, non-lethal options, such as directed-energy deterrents, with which to counter irregular, or non-traditional and asymmetric, warfare tactics, especially in urban environments with large civilian populations. The U.S. Air Force’s Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) is just such a tool.
CHAMP, a $40 million program initiated in 2009, achieved its first flight test at the Utah Test and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base in Roy, Utah. A Boeing B-52 strategic bomber carried and launched a CHAMP missile, which followed a preprogrammed flight path toward its target: a two-story building filled with electronics, including computers and video cameras filming the event from inside the structure.
The winged, jet-propelled missile, upon reaching preset coordinates, emitted bursts of high-power microwave energy at the building; in seconds, CHAMP had disabled its target, knocking out rows of computer and electronic systems, including the cameras recording the test.
Boeing personnel revealed that, during the test, the targeted electronics were interrupted for only a few seconds, but that’s only the beginning. “How long the electronics are disrupted… would vary widely depending on how the electronics work and how hard they were hit…. Something more complex, like an interdependent network of computers and power sources, could be taken offline for much longer or even disabled completely,” explained an NBC reporter who witnessed the flight test. Boeing officials also indicated that CHAMP can be used to hit multiple precise targets during a single mission.
This geek’s sentiments echo those of Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager at Boeing Phantom Works in California: “This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare. 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.”
Many in the mil/aero community are eager to see CHAMP fielded, and executives at prime contractor Boeing are optimistic about the technology’s future.