Experts warn that the U.S is at risk of an electromagnetic pulse attack from China and that it is urgent to protect the country.
Peter Vincent Pry (executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security), stated that there is a real danger of being able to win a war by using an EMP attack. He was speaking at a virtual forum hosted on Tuesday by the Universal Peace Federation. They don’t see an EMP being used by itself. It would be used with cyberattacks, physical sabotage, and non-nuclear electromagnetic pulses.
Experts like Pry warn that the U.S.’s electric grid and other infrastructure could be destroyed by an attack. They also note that the U.S. must defend itself quickly.
China already has “super EMPs”, and tested last summer a hypersonic glider vehicle. Analysts warn that the EMP could be deployed and cause a blackout lasting for a while that would affect key infrastructure and the military’s communication capabilities.
Although such an attack may seem “bloodless” initially, experts warn that an EMP-caused blackout could last for a year and cause the death of as many as 90% of the American population.
Plamen Doynov (a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and chief technology officer for the company EMP Shield) said, “It’s not bloodless, at minimum initially.”
Worse, countries without the most advanced military technology may launch an EMP attack. This could mean that less advanced adversaries like North Korea could strike a devastating blow to the U.S. homeland. Precision is not required. Donovan cautioned that North Korea does not need a ballistic missile capable of accurately deploying and detonating the weapon.
China has made significant investments in its EMP program. This strategy “emphasizes suppressing and degrading enemy electronic equipment throughout a conflict while protecting its ability to use cyber and electromagnetic spectrum,” according to a Pentagon report. The PLA will likely use electronic warfare to signal to deter and warn of adversary offensive actions early in the conflict. EW targets could include systems that operate in radio, radar and microwave, infrared, and optical frequency ranges as well as adversary computers and information systems.
Pry warns the U.S. that if China or Russia are able to cause large-scale blackouts, there is very little they can do.
The U.S. has the technology and ability to defend its infrastructure against such an attack. However, it will be difficult to deploy it in a country with multiple state agencies and utilities that are responsible for the grid. In 2019, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing government-wide coordination in defense against an EMP attack.
David Winks is the managing director at AcquSight’s electromagnetic resilience firm AcquSight. He believes there’s more to be done. This includes using some resources from President Biden’s huge infrastructure package to strengthen the nation’s defenses against an EMP attack.
Winks stated that there are active protection measures that will ground the pulse when it strikes an electric system of a car, for instance. These technologies exist, and that is the good news.
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