China has begun colluding with Russia on war-game experiments that heat up the atmosphere in a process that would kill satellite technology and eliminate a military opponent’s communications.
Weather phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones and even earthquakes also could result.
The South China Morning Post reports the two nations are working together “to modify the atmosphere.”
Five experiments were done over recent months, including one in June that caused a disturbance in the ionosphere that covered 49,000 square miles.
In another experiment, the Hong Kong paper said, the temperature of thin, ionised gas in high altitude increased more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the report said.
The Post explained electrons were pumped into the sky by an atmospheric heating facility in Vasailsursk, Russia. Called Sura, it was built during the era of the former Soviet Union.
The Sura base fired up an array of high-power antennas and injected a large amount of microwaves into the high atmosphere. The peak power of the high frequency radio waves could reach 260 megawatts, enough to light a small city, the report said.
The results were measured by satellite, and, according to a research paper published in China’s Earth and Planetary Physics Journal, the “plasma disturbances” found there provide “evidence for likely success of future related experiments.”
The sun and cosmic rays produced positively charged atoms known as ions at altitude above the earth, from about 50 to 700 miles or more. That layer reflects radio waves.
The high-energy microwaves “can pluck the electromagnetic field in [the] ionosphere like fingers playing a harp,” the report said.
“Changing the ionosphere over enemy territory can also disrupt or cut off their communication with satellites.”
America’s own High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility in Alaska is working on similar science.
According to the Daily Mail of London, Professor Guo Lixin at Xidian University in China described the joint experiments as extremely unusual.
Militaries long have had strategic interest in the ionosphere, but in recent years technology has opened the possibility of manipulating it to gain an advantage.
The U.S. and Soviet Union both worked on such programs during the Cold War, but China has renewed those efforts.