The rise of the Islamic State and its objective of re-establishing an Islamic caliphate committed to destroying Western civilization highlights a threat the U.S. has ignored for decades. The ability to launch nuclear armed ballistic missiles is not beyond its prospective capabilities and exists already from North Korea and possibly soon from Iran. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a single nuclear warhead detonated 100 miles or so over the U.S. could destroy our unhardened electric power grid—leading to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year. It’s time to counter this threat!
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“There is now an increasing likelihood that rogue nations such as North Korea (and before long, most likely, Iran) will soon match Russia and China in that they will have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as SCUDs that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space launch vehicles able to launch low- earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs. In 2004, the Russians told us that their “brain drain” had been helping the North Koreans develop EMP weapons . . .” ~Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey
We have opportunities for diplomatic initiatives to benefit the United States and our allies while defending against fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) attacks from North Korea and Iran. Such initiatives should be easily attached to agreements for defense cooperation, as evidenced by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines and discussions in Abu Dhabi—both of which set the stage for rapid follow through to end our total FOBS vulnerability and cooperate on regional defenses for our allies as well.
On his trip to the Pacific Rim, President Obama should set the stage for almost immediately ending America’s current vulnerability to the existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat posed by North Korea’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) capability. Beyond unilateral measures—the U.S. could deploy a TPY-2 radar in the Philippines to help defend them from North Korea and to empower our Aegis ships in the Pacific and our ground-based interceptors in California to shoot down a FOBS attack before it reaches U.S. Territory.
Iran, like North Korea, has demonstrated an ability to launch nuclear weapons into low earth orbit over the South Polar regions. Last year, they launched a monkey into space in such a trajectory, reportedly in a 4400 pound capsule that could easily carry a conventionally designed nuclear weapon into orbit. If they launched a much lighter “EMP” nuclear weapon possibly in the North Korean inventory, they could achieve substantially higher orbits. (Detonation of either weapon over the U.S. could lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within a year.) These facts, coupled with geographic realities, make defending against an Iranian FOBS more difficult than is the case for North Korea. And the Iranian Mullahs may be more inclined to attack “the Great Satan” than is North Korea’s Dear Leader. We can and should quickly end our vulnerability to both emerging if not existing threats.
A combined diplomatic and technical response is proposed to counter effectively North Korea’s demonstrated FOBS capability, which poses an existential EMP threat to the American people. We should insist on inspecting their satellite payloads for launches over the South Polar regions, and if they refuse be prepared to shoot down their satellites before they overfly U.S. territory. We should deploy a layered set of sea- and land-based defenses to do so, beginning almost immediately—and for relatively little expense since existing mostly already funded defense capabilities would be employed.
North Korea’s recent satellite launches and previous nuclear tests, coupled with its recent claims of a coming test of a “new form” nuclear weapon, give us pause in contemplating a possible North Korean EMP attack on the United States coming from over the South Polar region. The question is, will we take effective initiatives in time to counter this threat?
To deal more effectively with today’s threats, we should return to President Ronald Reagan’s vision made explicit in his March 23, 1983 speech that launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The “powers that be” should revive technology programs aimed at developing space-based defenses, the most cost-effective way to defend against a full gamut of ballistic missile threats, including those that pose an existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat.
America sleeps uneasy because of its looming debt crisis that the powers that be seem to be ignoring. Actually, there is a more important threat—literally an existential threat—that the powers that be are also ignoring, in spite of numerous signs of its clear and present danger. Unless Americans wake up and demand that their elected leaders provide for the common defense, a manmade or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event could lead to the death of several hundred million American. Stay Tuned!
Last Monday, President Bill Clinton’s Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey; Dr. Peter Pry, who leads the Task Force on National and Homeland Security; and I joined in a discussion of the existential threat of a natural or nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The event, sponsored by the newly established EMP Coalition—of which Mr. Woolsey is the Honorary Co-Chair along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—is summarized here, by clicking below. A YouTube video of the 2-hour conference is included.
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