The Real Concern

Charlie Martin echoes my real concern about Kim’s new nuke arsenal – that they’re aiming to launch and electromagnetic pulse attack on the US.

Or at least, planning on appearing to be able to.  In some ways, a big-enough EMP strike might cause more damage to the US than nuking one city, especially given the likely poor accuracy of Kim’s missiles.

And it’s an imposing deterrent:

The possibilities of a NEMP attack have been talked about for a long time, as John Moore’s articles show. It’s possible that the real risk is finally becoming clear to our politicians and our legacy press. The Boston Herald recently had an extended story on the danger of a North Korean NEMP attack, and Tucker Carlson recently showed interest in the problem.

Of course, there are others who don’t think it’s much of a risk, In that Boston Herald story, they quote Joshua Pollack, the editor of the Nonproliferation Review, as saying:

[A]n EMP attack doesn’t warrant more alarm than any other type of nuclear offensive because its efficacy is still uncertain — and it would have consequences for whichever nation launched it.

“It’s just an untested approach to trying to use a weapon, and just invites retaliation without doing a lot of damage,” Pollack said. “I’m much more concerned with blasting fire and radiation. Those will kill lots of people and destroy lots of stuff, and can do it very reliably.”

The problem here is that it’s based on a false assumption: that NEMP has not been tested. It’s never been applied as a weapon, but it has certainly been tested — and I don’t think my little fiction above is a worst-case scenario. So, how much damage from an inefficient NEMP attack should we plan on absorbing?

The mainstream media were wrong during the 70s and 80s, and they’re wrong today.

18 thoughts on “The Real Concern

  1. I don’t think most people appreciate how much more devastating an EMP attack will be for the whole country, as opposed to a nuke leveling a large chunk of one or more cities. An EMP over a small part of North America would affect people thousands of miles away, seeing as the grid would theoretically act as a giant conductor. As we saw in 2003, the power grids are interconnected, and a big enough surge in one place is enough to affect tens or hundreds of millions of people.

    Most military vehicles are rad-hardened, or they don’t use electronic ignition systems, like the Humvee. But civlians? Unless you have a (much) older car that uses a carburetor, get used to walking or biking (Mitch will be fine). Communications? Cell towers don’t have Faraday cages around them (would make it a little tough to get a signal), never mind the phone in your hand would have its delicate electronics cooked by the pulse. The eccentric guy in your neighborhood, with the tall radio antenna on his house, would suddenly be everybody’s best chance for getting messages to family and friends elsewhere in the country, provided he’s got a low-tech generator and had his radio (or a backup) in a Faraday cage when the pulse hit.

    Worst of all, no more SITD. On the plus side, no more screeds from Emery, DG, or Pen…

  2. Thanks, Ian. I was just about to move EMP Attack above Attack From Mars on my Daily Worry List.

    Maybe cut back a bit on Call of Duty.

  3. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 09.06.17 : The Other McCain

  4. Thanks, Ian. I was just about to move EMP Attack above Attack From Mars on my Daily Worry List.

    My thanks to you, Emery, for demonstrating why schools failing to adequately teach reading comprehension is not a trivial matter. Was anything I wrote not factual?

    Maybe cut back a bit on Call of Duty.

    I’ve heard it’s a good video game. I’ve never played it. I know about EMPs because I come from a STEM background– I paid attention in classes where the coursework involved things like nuclear physics and induction of a current in a magnetic field. Would you like me to explain how it works? I can use pictures in place of the big words you might have difficulty reading…

  5. The article ignores the fact that solar EMP is inevitable and could have the same impact as a nuclear explosion — major difference is that this type of event could be global.

    The EMP problem is mostly one of an inexcusably fragile electrical and electronic infrastructure. An outdated and inadequately maintained electrical and electronic infrastructure is a major reason why the EMP threat is continually becoming more serious.
    .

  6. There will, at some point, be inevitable solar EMP, yes, but you can’t exactly schedule it as the North Koreans can unless you happen to be the Creator. There may also be some signs that it’s coming up that might give more warning than ten minutes. Man-made EMP, however, has been in the IEEE EMC society journals for decades, and I’ve read a lot of the articles. I can state from experience that it is indeed a concern with a lot of military systems, and that, along with high frequency performance, drove a lot of the efforts for developing GaAs as a substrate instead of silicon, as well as many silicon technologies. It’s also a great reason to use optical fiber.

    My thought recently is that if somehow power plants are hardened, will we still be up a creek because homes that are subject to EMP won’t be able to use the power?

  7. BB
    are there EMP hardened solar panels? I’ve looked but haven’t done an exhaustive search. I ask because it occurs to me that solar farms like the 1000 acre installation in Chisago county would likely turn into a 1000 acres of scrap if the panels are vulnerable.

  8. An EMP attack will be treated exactly like any other nuclear attack — aka regime suicide — and could do far more damage. It’s not the satellites to worry about — although they will get blasted too — it’s the ground infrastructure — electric plants, cellular networks, etc.

    For a country seeking to insulate itself from attack using a pretty small number of nukes, an EMP strike would be a ridiculously expensive way to bring destruction on oneself without doing any lasting damage to one’s adversary.

    It seems not unlikely that the United States (and others) will gradually come to accept the North Korean claim to be a member of the nuclear club. We won’t like it. We will chafe at this uncomfortable situation. But we will (tacitly, if not officially) accept it.

  9. The EMP problem is mostly one of an inexcusably fragile electrical and electronic infrastructure. An outdated and inadequately maintained electrical and electronic infrastructure is a major reason why the EMP threat is continually becoming more serious.
    Ditto the over-sensitivity of the grid to strong solar storms. The best defense against an EMP or a millennial solar storm is redundancy, and and top men have have decided that redundancy is inefficient and unnecessary.
    Top. Men.

  10. MacArthur: I would guess that there are radiation hardened solar panels, since after all they’re used in space to provide power for satellites outside the ozone layer. Whether terrestrial solar panels are hardened as much, and how well they would do vs. EMP, I really don’t know. I am guessing that “scrap silicon” would be the result for a lot of them.

    Vintage technology is looking better and better….

  11. If a enemy were to deploy a EMP weapon on the US he first consider what destruction we could bring upon him when our 14 Ohio class Boomers start raining their SLBMs on them. EMP would have little to no affect on a submerged sub.

  12. Scott, I’m thinking two Tridents taking out the ten biggest cities in the country, to include Kaesong and most of their artillery, would make the point. The other 13 “mass urban renewal devices” could stay submerged. The question is whether Kim is sane enough to realize this.

  13. An EMP attack will be treated exactly like any other nuclear attack

    Understood.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not a deterrent. EMPs over LA, NYC, Chicago, Dallas, DC and Orlando would cause immense damage to the US economy, and kill a lot of people indirectly.

    I think it’s generally understood that all of Kim’s deterrents – a nuke, an EMP strike, and all that artillery around Kaesong – are poison pills designed to make directly taking the Kims down too dangerous to think about.

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