Tags: E-Bombs: | Cheap | Easy | Extremely | Destructive

E-Bombs: Cheap, Easy, Extremely Destructive

Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM

So writes Jim Wilson in a Popular Mechanics magazine story that explains in simple - and horrific - detail how terrorists could produce a weapon that could shut down a U.S. city, destroy all its electronics, its electricity supply, automobiles, computers, phone lines and just about all the modern technological devices and systems we now take for granted.

This is no secret technology, according to the magazine, but well known to the scientific community and the malefactors around the world who are already building weapons of mass destruction.

"You, however, will remain unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time when electricity meant a lightning bolt fracturing the night sky," Wilson warns, adding that this "is not a hypothetical, son-of-Y2K scenario. It is a realistic assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a new generation of weapons - E-bombs."

Noting that the U.S. military is now building a generation of sophisticated E-bombs it will be ready to test next year, Wilson writes that the Pentagon is deeply concerned by the knowledge that smaller, hardware-store grade e-bombs can be built by any terrorist group for a mere pittance.

"Any nation with even a 1940s technology base could make them," Carlo Kopp, an Australian expert on high-tech warfare, told Wilson. "The threat of E-bomb proliferation is very real.

Popular Mechanics, Wilson explained, "estimates a basic weapon could be built for $400."

The technology behind E-bombs - electromagnetic pulse devices (EMP) - has been around a long time. According to Popular Mechanics the idea can be traced back to 1925, when physicist Arthur Compton suggested it could be used to help study atoms.

Back during the Cold War, Russia used nuclear weapons to produce electromagnetic pulses created in the upper atmosphere to disrupt communications and electric power as an anti-ballistic missile weapons system.

According to NewsMax.com's Col. Stanislav Lunev, a more sophisticated version of this technology provides Russia with its current ABM system.

Wilson writes that nuclear weapons experts set off H-bombs high over the Pacific Ocean, back in 1958 that created bursts of gamma rays that, upon striking the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, released a tsunami of electrons that spread for hundreds of miles.

As a result, "Street lights were blown out in Hawaii and radio navigation was disrupted for 18 hours, as far away as Australia." Since then the U.S. has taken the lead in developing EMP devices and the means to defeat them.

Popular Mechanics described the technology that would allow terrorists to develop what Wilson called "a poor man's E-bomb." It contains a tube filled with a chemical explosive inside a stator coil.

"To ignite an E-bomb, a starter current energizes the stator coil, creating a magnetic field. The explosion expands the tube, short-circuiting the coil and compressing the magnetic field forward. The pulse is emitted in high frequencies that defeat protective devices like Faraday Cages."

Adds Wilson, that pulse "makes a lightning bolt seem like a flashbulb by comparison."

During the 15 minutes after an E-bomb explodes, detonation electromagnetic pulses roars through electrical systems creating localized magnetic fields and causing electric surges to rip through the power and telecommunication systems.

"This string-of-firecrackers effect means that terrorists would not have to drop their homemade E-bombs directly on the targets they wish to destroy," Wilson explained.

Such ordinarily secure sites, such as telephone switching centers and electronic funds-transfer exchanges, could be destroyed through their electric and telecommunication connections."

He describes the result in chilling terms: "You will hear a sharp crack in the distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an innocent clap of thunder, the civilized world will have become unhinged.

"Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc and telephone lines melt."

Batteries in such devices as Palm Pilots and MP3 players will be overloaded. Computers will die, and the information they contain will simply vanish into dead cyberspace.

Internal combustion engines such as those in your car or truck will stop cold and never again start. Only diesels will still work, but the pumps that supply diesel fuel won't work because there will be no electricity to power them.

"Knock out electric power, computers and telecommunication and you've destroyed the foundation of modern society," he concludes. "In the age of Third World-sponsored terrorism, the E-bomb is the great equalizer."

In short, you'll find yourself back in what great-grandpa used to call "the good old days," when candles provided light, horses powered vehicles, and the only music you could hear at home came from single-sided 78-rpm records played on hand-cranked victrolas (that's record players to you young whippersnappers).

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So writes Jim Wilson in a Popular Mechanics magazine story that explains in simple - and horrific - detail how terrorists could produce a weapon that could shut down a U.S. city, destroy all its electronics, its electricity supply, automobiles, computers, phone lines and...
Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM
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