- Text smaller
- Text bigger
A new report says a SCUD-type missile launched from a small ship 200 miles from the coast of the United States could unleash a nuclear-generated electromagnetic pulse over Washington, D.C., that would leave behind $771 billion in damage.
“More than five countries have the capability to inflict an EMP attack. Rogue regimes and terrorists know all about EMP and are working to acquire this weapon. We know the odds of our house burning down in any given year are very low, but that doesn’t mean we will cancel our fire insurance,” said U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. “If America doesn’t develop insurance against EMP, we will increase the odds of inviting this type of unimaginable attack in the future.”
The report was produced by Sage Policy Group of Baltimore and commissioned by Instant Access Networks, which is leading a pilot project with Frostburg State University and Public Technology Institute to analyze dangers from EMP.
Experts have predicted the EMP attack essentially would destroy any electronics within range of its impact, leaving technology comparable to that available in the 1800s.
EMP attacks are generated when a nuclear weapon is detonated anywhere from 10 miles above the Earth’s surface to hundreds of miles. The explosion, of even a small nuclear warhead, would produce a set of electromagnetic pulses that interact with the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field.
The study said the detonation would deliver a burst of energy to any metallic surface in direct line of the explosion, particularly those exceeding one meter in length.
“These metal objects act like antennae and conduct a surge of energy along their span,” the study said.
“[Targets] include not only the obvious – computers and telephones – but also the electronic devices that are embedded in virtually every aspect of a productive economy,” the study said, listing cars, power transmission lines, pipelines that deliver fuel, ATMs, heating and air conditioning systems and elevators.
Such a weapon would move so fast ordinary surge protectors would be useless, and the attack would leave communications, broadcast, computer, weapons, public safety and emergency response systems as well as automobiles, utilities, water lines and other essential services virtually useless.
IAN’s chief executive officer, Chuck Manto, said EMP “appears to be one of the least expensive ways to disable mission critical infrastructure on a broad scale.”
WND reported on such concerns more than two years ago, and subsequent warnings also came via Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, an online subscription intelligence report that revealed security and counter-terrorism experts were warning about the dangers of an EMP attack from a SCUD fired from an offshore platform by a rogue nation or terrorist network.
The G2 report also warned that such an attack could cripple the United States and ultimately destroy much of the population.
WND reported later when Congress was warned rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea, have the capability of launching an undetected, catastrophic EMP attack on the U.S. – and are actively developing plans.
Bartlett said the new study looked at the potential devastation if such a device would be detonated over the Baltimore-Washington-Richmond corridor.
The result was damages of a minimum of $34 billion to a high of $771 billion – not including any cost of any infrastructure repairs.
“EMP is a low risk, but assymetrical form of devastating attack that would dwarf the scale of the damage from the 9/11 terrorist attack,” Bartlett said.
The study, “Initial Assessment of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Impact upon Baltimore-Washington-Richmond Region,” was released in conjunction with the “1st National Preparedness Fair” held by the Senate Sergeant at Arms Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness in partnership with the U.S. Capitol Police and others.
“EMP is a threat that our country cannot afford to ignore. This IAN study should be emulated nation-wide by the private sector and universities in order to find cost-effective strategies for protecting the U.S. economy from the potential for devastating destruction by an EMP attack,” Bartlett said. “The U.S. Congress’ blue ribbon, ‘Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack,’ recommends exactly this kind of initiative by the private sector to help the U.S. government protect our economy and society from EMP.”
“The Defense Department with the strong support of Deputy Secretary Gordon England is pursuing how the federal government can reduce the EMP threat,” he said.
In a forward to the report, Bartlett noted, “The EMP Commission found that terrorists could perform an EMP attack. A sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missile is not required to make an EMP attack. The EMP Commission found that a short- or medium-range missile, like a SCUD or Iran’s Shahab-3, launched off a freighter, could make an EMP attack on the United States. Iran has practiced such a launch-mode, firing a SCUD missile off a vessel in the Caspian Sea.
“A high-yield nuclear weapon is not necessary to perform an EMP attack that would destroy U.S. critical infrastructures. One of the EMP Commission’s key findings reported to the U.S. Congress is that: ‘Certain types of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas, and designs for variants of such weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for a quarter-century,'” Bartlett continued.
He supported the plan that established the Congressional EMP Commission in 2001, and while its report was released in 2004 with similar warnings, it largely was ignored.
Lowell Wood, of the Congressional EMP Commission, has said an EMP attack is a “giant continental time machine” that would destroy electronics and leave communications operating on the level of the technology from two centuries ago.
“Unfortunately, the public and all too many policymakers still do not understand that rogue states and terrorists are obsessed with obtaining nuclear weapons and EMP capability,” Bartlett said. “They are well aware that if they can credibly threaten or actually execute an EMP attack against the United States that they could destroy the critical infrastructures – electrical power, telecommunications, transportation, food and water – that sustain our civilization.”
Bartlett said experts have warned that such an attack “might result in the defeat of our military forces … the degradation of infrastructure could have irreversible effects on the country’s ability to support its population.”
And the attack even could affect more than just the United States.
“For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover, with its primary electromagnetic pulse, the entire continent of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico,” Wood has noted.
“Various government reports … have confirmed the growing likelihood of EMP events of various kinds,” the new study of the Washington region said. “These reports and related congressional testimony support the contention that relatively available and inexpensive SCUD type missiles are capable of carrying the required payload that could be launched from a small ship 200 or more miles off the East Coast of the United States and detonated between 30 and 80 miles high.
“Any EMP-inflicted damage delivered from this altitude would extend out hundreds of miles beyond the region considered in this study, significantly complicating the recovery process and the restoration of economic activity…”
The study noted that the impulse would gather in its metal targets, and reach, according to some estimates, up to three million volts.
The Washington region economy makes up about four percent of the nation’s output, and the study suggested that if an attack happened, only 7 percent of the region’s damages would be repaired within the first month.
“The high case loss of $771 billion is almost one and one-half times the annual regional gross domestic product and is equal to 7 percent of the annual national gross domestic product,” the study said.
“In the event of a continental-wide EMP, escaping the economic damage of the Baltimore-Washington-Richmond region by moving to Philadelphia, Atlanta or Chicago simply may not be possible. In that event, there could be an entire collapse of the economy as we know it for a period of years,” the study said.
The solution, the study said is to begin providing shielding for very new piece of equipment or system that might be susceptible, because protecting even a critical 10 percent of infrastructure “will make it possible to maintain water distribution for drinking and fire protection and the general though minimal communications necessary t o protect life and property.”