BY: Marc King


The discussion today is a serious one. One that is being basically ignored by both industry and government.

The discussion is about EMP / electro-magnetic pulse and the threat that it poses to the entire nation. In order to better understand the issue, and the effects of EMP, I would like the reader to recall a scene from the movie Oceans 11.

In order to pull off their daring robbery, the thieves needed to turn off the electricity to the vault. To do this, they employ a small EMP generator located in the back of a van… Here is the scene. The clip ends at around 52 seconds.

Now that was Hollywood. Note that when the button was pushed the EMP generator in the van, all the electricity in Las Vegas was turned off — Hollywood got it right! An EMP pulse from a small EMP generator such as the one depicted in the movie could cause serious damage to a widespread area in the wrong hands.

The problem is bigger than that. As the Colonial Pipeline debacle has so clearly demonstrated — the national infrastructure for dealing with vulnerabilities is sorely lacking and industry and Congress are asleep at the switch. The pipeline failure has inconvenienced millions of people along the east coast — but no one has died from the lack of gasoline for their car.

So, what could we expect from an EMP attack on the country — First, let’s set the stage for how this could happen? The experts all agree that all it would take is a poorly aimed missile with a small hydrogen bomb detonated about 50 -120 miles up in the center of the country and — BOOM! It is circa 1910 in America all over again.

Here is what the Congressional Research Service Report published on April 14, 2006 had to say about it:

“A large scale EMP effect can be produced by a single nuclear explosion detonated high in the atmosphere. This method is referred to as High-Altitude EMP (HEMP). A similar, smaller-scale EMP effect can be created using non-nuclear devices with powerful batteries or reactive chemicals. This method is called High Power Microwave (HPM)” (Just like the one depicted in the movie). The report goes on to say… “Several nations, including reported sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure. Also, some equipment and weapons used by the U.S. military may be vulnerable to the effects of EMP”.

Let’s decode the words of the report and see what the potential impact of this might be on the population of the United States. Let’s start with this: “…disrupt communications…”

What this really means is that the cell phone which has become such an important and integrated part of your life will not work — nor will the cell towers that connect it. Land lines will not work because there will not be any electricity to operate them. In fact, simply stated: Anything with a computer chip in it will cease to work!

Which brings us to the second part of the statement: “…and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure.”

What are they talking about here — well it is a reference to everything that is managed or run by a computer in the U.S. — Electric transmission line and transformer stations will stop functioning … trucks will not run — cars will not go (unless they were built sometime before the introduction of computers in our cars).

The planes will not fly, and the pipelines will not function. The operations of our dams will cease to happen. River traffic will come to a grinding holt — are you starting to get the picture — It’s circa 1910 in America.

But here is the most disturbing part — Most major metropolitan areas across the county have about a 3 day supply of food on hand and that’s when the refrigeration is working. The trucks and trains that we depend on to keep the supply chain of food working will not be able to move.

There will be no resupplying the food chains and supermarkets. I’m sure you will recall the panic buying in the face of COVID just imagine what will occur when the nation figures out that in 1910 you might just have to kill your own food because there is no supply chain. There can be no dispute — large segments of the population in America will die.

The electric transformer stations that we are all familiar with — spread across the landscape will cease to function. The EMP pulse will travel along the many miles of wire entering the transformers and destroying them internally.

The really bad news is that US industry stopped manufacturing these large transformers leaving the market to offshore manufacturers — the lead time for replacement of this type of equipment is estimated to be about 5 years.

Now, with a better understanding of what we could be facing let’s take another look at what the Congressional Research Office Report had to say:

“Some observers indicate that the threat of an EMP attack against the United States may be growing along with worldwide access to newer technologies and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. A single, specially-designed, low-yield nuclear explosion high above the United States, or over a battlefield, can produce a largescale EMP effect resulting in widespread loss of electronics, but possibly without direct fatalities.”

Let’s stop here for just a moment and think about this… Who could they possibly be referring to with this statement — keeping in mind it reflects the situation in 2006? Reportedly, several potential U.S. adversaries, such as Russia or China, are now capable of launching a crippling high altitude EMP strike against the United States with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile, and other nations, such as North Korea and Iran, could possibly have the capability as well. The report goes on to say:

“In the past, the threat of mutually assured destruction provided a lasting deterrent against the exchange of multiple high-yield nuclear warheads. However, an EMP attack directed against the United States involving no violent destruction, nor instant death for large numbers of U.S. citizens, may not necessarily evoke massive nuclear retaliation by the U.S. military, where, for example, large numbers of innocent civilians of a nation with a rogue leader might be killed. Today, the perceived lower risk of assured destruction by the United States, and the perceived vulnerability of U.S. civilian and U.S. military computers to the effects of an EMP attack may create a new incentive for other countries to develop or acquire a nuclear capability”.

For those who have never witnessed the effects of an EMP operation, I refer you to a demonstration that was conducted by the Boeing Corporation to highlight the capabilities of their version of a “Cruise Missile” they have named “CHAMP” (Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project) equipped with a EMP generator.

In the words of the project team: During the test, the CHAMP missile navigated a pre-programmed flight plan and emitted bursts of high-powered energy, effectively knocking out the target’s data and electronic subsystems. CHAMP allows for selective high-frequency radio wave strikes against numerous targets during a single mission.

This demonstration clearly shows the effects of the EMP generator as it is turned on and off against selected targets.

The threat is real …

The Colonial Pipeline debacle is just the beginning. This is a long standing problem that has received only a passing interest by both industry and our politicians. As much as we need to repair and replace our roads and bridges we also need to commit our resources to hardening our cyber infrastructure so that when we are attacked we are prepared to defend ourselves at the most basic levels.

In 2021 we do not need more windmills … because if we lose the electric grid to an EMP attack, you will not have to worry about how you are going to charge your electric vehicle!

You won’t even have FOOD!

This is a major infrastructure item that is never talked about, never even mentioned. We need to spread the word about the danger to our lives.



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  1. Scary indeed!

    And I thought Americans would be causing wide-spreading blackouts in 2025, when those driving their electric cars home from work, and those electric delivery vehicles that had been operating all day, get plugged in at dinner time on a hot, humid, summer evening.

    Well, America still is not building any new power plants — even with millions of electric vehicles planned for the roads just a few years from now.

    We cannot even keep our air conditioners “on” and cook dinners now — on hot, humid days.


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