Combat-Ready High-Powered Microwave E-Bomb In Testing

Sci-fi tales are full of electromagnetic-pulse devices that blow out every computer from here to Kalamazoo. But US Army researchers are testing a short skinny high-powered microwave bomb that could actually be used in combat.

The key, apparently, is size. Older HPMs were too long to be deployed, but the one that went into testing last week at a military facility in Huntsville, Alabama ("The Rocket City") is five feet long and just six inches thick. "It's a big deal," Edl Schamiloglu, an EE professor at University of New Mexico told IEEE Spectrum. "The military would be able to actually use these."

The weapon in testing will reach peak power of 35 megawatts for just 100 to 150 nanoseconds, pulsing out a microwave beam that covers 2GHz to 6GHz frequencies. There goes your Wi-Fi, and maybe your mobile phone too.

The coolest thing about the bomb is its key power component, the "flux compression generator." Not only does it have a name that clearly was given to it by Dr. Emmet Brown, but one of the Texas Tech researchers developing the thing had this to say about it: "The FCG is like a battery that runs on a stick of dynamite"—well, C4 actually, but we get the picture. Big ba-da-boom.

If you're electrically inclined, be sure to soak up the more seductively nerdy details of this 21st-century ordnance at IEEE Spectrum. [IEEE Spectrum via Gizmag]