There are several new approaches to E-bombs and EMP devices. The Army is creating hybrid devices by adding e-bombs to regular explosives.
1. There are shockwave ferromagnetic generators for e-bomb and EMP devices. This is a magnet that blows up and spontaneously demagnetizes, releasing energy as a pulse of power. The effect is known as pressure-induced magnetic phase transition, and only occurs with some types of magnets in certain situations.
The researchers moved on to more exotic lead zirconate titanate magnets. This enabled them to reduce the volume of the power generator from 50 cu. cm. (3 cu. in.) to 3 cu. cm., excluding explosives. Army requirements call for assembly of the power generator, power conditioning and aerial in a 1-in. space. Power output will be measured in hundreds of megawatts for microseconds.
2. There are also completely explosive ultracompact high-voltage nanosecond pulse-generating systems. They are one-fifth of a cubic inch.
3. Allen Stults of Amrdec is using the jet of ionized plasma produced by the explosion as an antenna.
The new munitions will have two crucial advantages over previous e-bombs: they are small, and should not cause electronic “friendly fire” casualties hundreds of meters away. And because they still have the same blast, fragmentation and armor-piercing properties as they did, commanders can be confident that they’re not wasting space carrying rounds that might have no effect.
An enhanced warhead could knock out a tank even if it did not penetrate. The vehicle would be left without ignition, communications or other electronics. A warhead would also knock out other electronic systems, including mobile phones used by insurgents to detonate bombs and circuitry in rocket-propelled grenades.
Two candidate munitions for upgrade are the Tow missile and 2.75-in. rockets fired by helicopter. This is unlike previous e-bomb efforts, which have focused on large air-delivered bombs or unitary artillery munitions that cover a large area, what Kopp terms “weapons of electrical mass destruction.”
A small e-bomb will be qualitatively different than larger versions. Radiated power falls off with the square of distance, so a target 3 meters (10 ft.) away receives 100 times the effect of one 30 meters away. An EMP-enhanced Tow missile would produce a pulse strong enough to destroy what it hits, but should not disrupt electronics over a wide area.
The smallest weapon that the Army is looking to upgrade is the M77 bomblet fired by the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). A bomblet has a shaped-charge warhead and throws out antipersonnel fragments. Bomblets cover a wide area—one launcher can fire a 12-rocket salvo blanketing an area the size of six football fields—and are used against soft targets. An EMP-enhanced version would cover the same area, providing even destruction over the target zone.
If the M77 can be upgraded, shoulder-launched rockets and similar weapons could be modified to produce an EMP. Small infantry rockets have limited effectiveness against modern armor. An EMP-enhanced round might not penetrate but could provide a “soft kill” capability that immobilizes a vehicle. This damage is hard to repair and would probably require the replacement of electronic systems.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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