Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series, and describes how easy it would be to create a portable EMP weapon. The first story described the ability of a lone-wolf terrorist to inflict major, anonymous damage on the United States.
WASHINGTON – The ability of a lone-wolf terrorist to make an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, weapon is made easy by the ready access such an individual has to websites and other open source information on how to construct such a device.
In the hands of a determined individual, a weapon like this could have serious consequences on the nation’s critical infrastructures that rely on electricity and their electronic components in order to function, experts say.
Estimates are that tens of millions of fatalities could occur in the aftermath of a major EMP calamity as food, fuel and power supplies evaporate and the nation is transported instantly back to the 18th century lifestyle without a power grid or anything else electronic.
As the first installment described, while many have focused on the possibility of an EMP disaster developing because of a nuclear explosion or an intense solar storm, there is another great danger: The lone-wolf terrorist.
The attack could come from someone someone who strikes out on his or her own without any group affiliation. Such individuals either may see themselves as supporting the views of various terrorist groups or may have a personal grudge.
Such an individual with a penchant for electronics can pull together components from a Radio Shack or electronic store – even order the components off of selected internet websites – and fashion a radio frequency, or RF, weapon.
As microprocessors become smaller but more sophisticated, they are even more susceptible to an RF pulse. The high power microwave from an RF weapon produces a short, very high power pulse, said to be billions of watts in a nanosecond, or billionths of a second.
This so-called burst of electromagnetic waves in the gigahertz microwave frequency band can melt electrical circuitry and damage integrated circuits causing them to fail. Ironically, this type RF weapon won’t affect humans, although there are some forms that experts say can affect the body’s own electrical system.
The pulse from an RF weapon travels at the speed of light and can be fired without any visible emanation. These weapons can come in ultra-wideband or narrow-band, with the latter acting like a laser emitting a single frequency at very high power. This pulse then is directed at a specific electronic target.
What makes RF weapons so dangerous is their compactness and ability to be powered by hand-carried energy sources. Experts say that their range of intensity is from 200 meters to 1,000 meters, or from some 656 feet to 3,281 feet.
Experts also say the most frightening circumstance is how available the information is on how to make an EMP device – in this case, a radio-frequency, or RF, weapon.
For example, an obscure, 41-page paper published by Lt. Col. John A. Brunderman, U.S.A.F., outlined how high power radio frequency in what he termed a directed energy role has “huge potential” for both offensive and defensive military use.
His paper, “High Power Radio Frequency Weapons: A Potential Counter to U.S. Stealth and Cruise Missile Technology,” was written while he attended the Center for Strategy and Technology at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.
That paper, readily available on the Internet, sufficiently details what sources say give insight on how radio frequency, or RF, weapons, can be used in downing stealth aircraft, including unmanned drones.
Sources say that where it lacks in detail, it is sufficiently able to point a knowledgeable engineer in a direction on how to proceed in developing systems to counter U.S. stealth technology.
The open source paper pointed out that if an enemy is able to exploit such technologies, then U.S. tactics and strategy inevitably will have to change, assuming the technologies were used in an integrated air defense role to counter U.S. high technology, deep-strike capabilities.
Ready access to such information could be dangerous in the hands of a lone wolf, or person not affiliated with a group, determined to attack society’s vital infrastructure which is largely dependent on the national electrical grid and electronic components to function.
As electronics become more densely packed, more energy efficient and operate at higher speeds, Brunderman pointed out that they become even more susceptible to high power RF microwave radiation.
While Brunderman’s paper is a readily available open source guideline on how to defeat U.S. stealth aircraft and drones, similar information from the Internet offers a “how-to” to construct a simple but effective electromagnetic pulse weapon using off-the-shelf components from retail electronic stores.
On the website BlockYourId, for example, there is a step-by-step approach to constructing a simple EMP generator.
While the one pictured won’t destroy “every computer in the neighborhood,” it does give a detailed technical overview of the steps needed to make up electromagnetic pulse warfare, including the off-the-shelf components that go into making an RF generator.
It points out that the most critical component will be a high-voltage pulse capacitor.
For “really significant results,” it will need a pulse capacitor output in the hundreds of Joules. It also offers suggestions on boosting the electromagnetic pulse. While some of the components may be a bit pricey, cost will be no object to those individuals or groups determined to make such a generator.
If a lone wolf or terrorist group wants to build an RF weapon, all the person would have to do is go to Information Unlimited at the website amazing1.com.
It is a virtual catalog of electromagnetic pulse devices offered in a variety of ranges, most capable of doing either severe damage or frying electronics at considerable distances.
The prospect also is there to upgrade the offered technology to increase the power and distance of the RF device, elements which are important to determine effectiveness.
For example, the website catalog offers a variety of “EMP/HERF/SHOCK Pulse Generators,” with the caveat that it is a “Dangerous electrical device, may damage sensitive electronic systems, computers, etc.”
“Shock wave generators are capable of producing focused acoustic or electromagnetic energy that can break up objects such as kidney stones and other similar materials. EMP generators can produce pulses of electromagnetic energy that can destroy the sensitive electronics in computers and microprocessors. Destabilized LCR circuits can produce multi megawatt pulses by using an explosive wire disruptive switch. These high power pulses can be coupled ‘with difficulty’ into antennas, conic sections, horns etc. for very directional effects. Research is currently being undertaken to disable vehicles thus avoiding dangerous high speed chases. The trick is to generate a high enough power pulse to fry the electronic control processor modules without creating collateral damage to unintended targets. This could be a lot simpler if the vehicle was covered in plastic or fiber glass rather than metal. The shielding of the metal body offers a challenge to the researcher to develop a practical system. A system could be built that could do this but would be costly, large and produce collateral damage to friendly targets.
“Devices described are intended for experienced researchers and qualified personnel who are aware of all hazards and liabilities in use of this equipment.”
This explanation implied guidance to a potential user on how to boost existing systems to provide greater damage to an intended target.
The catalog then goes into the specific generators, some of which come with the caveat that “This is an advanced and highly dangerous project!”
One in particular is the “Complete EMP Systems Crated with All Setup Instructions,” with the caveat that it will be “Sold only to qualified research companies and personnel” – a condition which easily could be manipulated by providing false representation to mask true intent.
While the EMP150 has an output of 300 Megawats and weighs 90 kilograms, or 198 lbs., selling for $8,000; the EMP400 has a 1.8 Gigawatt output and weighs 170 kg, or 374 lbs. selling for $14,000.
For $32,000, a would-be lone wolf or terrorist group can get the “Electromagnetic EMP Blaster Gun, Gen II,” capable of “shutting down a computer at a distance of 15 meters,” or almost 50 feet, and can “ignite highly explosive fuels in case of proximity or contact.”
The website also offers Marx Impulse generators which it describes as “Professional Equipment for Serious Research.”
The website describes its Marx Impulse generator as simulating a lightning strike, with a “current rise” faster than a natural lightning bolt.
With some technical savvy, a person may be able to take these basic elements and boost them to even greater levels of lethality either aimed at electronic systems or to provide greater coverage to maximize electronic destruction.
These and a myriad of other high voltage products, lasers, capacitors/rectifiers/diodes can be ordered from the website just like you’d order clothing from a catalog. There is one disclaimer that puts the burden of responsibility on the buyer, not the seller. It refers to the:
“Legal Status of these Products: It is the responsibility of the buyer, not the seller, to ascertain and obey all applicable local, state, federal, and international laws in the regard to the possession, use and sale of any item purchased from Information Unlimited, Inc. Absolutely no sales to minors. By placing an order, the buyer represents that the products ordered will be used only in a lawful manner and that he/she is of legal age. Information Unlimited, Inc. will not be held liable for the misuse of any product purchased from us or any of our direct distributors or dealers. Also, whereas no product is 100% effective against attack, Information United Inc. assumes no responsibility if a personal safety product purchased from us is not effective in preventing bodily injury or death.
“Some of the items we carry are ‘DANGEROUS’ and may be ‘ILLEGAL’ in your state or country. Please be sure to check local laws ‘BEFORE’ ordering.”
The company does offer a hazardous equipment affidavit for various items, compelling the purchaser to sign and acknowledging that the person understands the hazards involved.
It adds that, “Hazardous devices are only made available to qualified and established companies in these related fields,” but it doesn’t explain what constitutes a “qualified” company.
And that’s it.
There was no response to WND attempts to contact Information Unlimited through its www.amazing1.com website for a further explanation on how it goes about determining a company is “qualified” to obtain the equipment.
Some mail order catalogs that sell ammunition, for example, require the would-be buyer at least to submit a photocopy of a driver’s license or state-authorized identification card to determine some modicum of bona fides to determine age and list the person’s address. Such an approach also includes a photograph of the purchaser.
If the FBI then would launch an investigation following an electromagnetic attack on a facility, aircraft or any number of other targets that would result in widespread damage, then such information would offer a potential lead.
However, www.amazing1.com located in the “Live Free or Die”state of New Hampshire doesn’t have such a requirement.
For the individual who wants to increase the capability of an existing system or build one from scratch, open-source websites offer insight into how to make an RF weapon and make available all of the necessary components.
F. Michael Maloof, a senior WND/G2Bulletin writer, is a former security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at [email protected]