According to two unnamed Air Force officials, the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
The U.S. military is reportedly developing a weapon that could use microwave technology to potentially “fry” North Korean missiles and prevent them from launching.
The cruise missile zaps microwave energy at a target to disable electronics, such as computers inside military facilities, and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles.
The weapon can shoot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. The weapon itself wouldn’t damage the buildings or cause casualties.
Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., developed and tested the weapon called CHAMP, or the counter-electronics high-powered microwave advanced missile.
Headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Air Force Research Laboratory has also pursued what its leaders have called “game-changing” battlefield technology, including hypersonic weapons, autonomous drones and artificial intelligence.
“The purpose of that weapon is to non-kinetically take out computers and (information technology) infrastructure,” retired Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, a former AFRL commander, said in a 2014 interview.
According to AFRL leaders, the technology was used over a Utah range.
“These high-powered microwave signals are very effective at disrupting and possibly disabling electronic circuits,” Mary Lou Robinson, chief of weapons development at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, told NBC News.
Air Force developers were working with Boeing for the missile since 2009. They now hope to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill.
However, it is still not clear if the weapon is ready to use and it is still yet to be discovered if the weapon is going to be more effective than the powerful weapons already possessed by the U.S.
Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
“To say we'll chance it on an untested sci-fi capability rather than using known capabilities seems a bit odd,” Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at MIT, explained. “If you're going to go, go, and use the best tool in your inventory to go get them.”
The missile had been tested out in 2012, destroying several electronic targets, according to Air Force officials.
"Today, we made science fiction science fact," Keith Coleman, Boeing’s manager for the program, said after the 2012 test.
"Think about when you put something in your microwave that has metal on it," Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC News. "You know how badly that goes? Imagine directing those microwaves at someone's electronics."
Now to make the weapon operational, more testing is needed along with more congressional funding.
The major advantage of this weapon is that people won’t be harmed while the electronics are destroyed. But the microwave weapon only has a range of 700 miles; it can only be launched after planes get close to the enemy’s airspace. That could make it easier for North Korea to shoot down an American warplane.
According to experts, United States should ensure it physically destroys North Korean military buildings that could help the country conduct retaliatory strikes instead of simply trying to fry its electronics.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Air Force Stagg Sgt. Roidan Carlson