Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress
June 17, 1997
Radio Frequency Weapons and the Infrastructure
I have been asked to talk to the overall subject of your hearing from a somewhat different perspective. Initially, it was to be from the one of what technology transfer means to a soldier. That part would have been fairly simple to address. Field soldiers are too busy to think much, if at all, about such transfers. That is, until they run across them on a battlefield where U.S. technology or materiel is being used against them. That happened in World War II when the residue of simpler technologies in the form of scrap metal was employed against us in the Pacific. It happened in Vietnam when some of our weaponry was obtained by our adversary. It happened again in Desert Storm when we ran across containers of U.S. materiel in the hands of Saddam Hussein’s soldiers, materiel which had been channeled through Jordan. Then the fleeting reaction is one of anger and “why?” But soldiers–placed as they are since the time of the Roman legions in the sand, mud, rain and snow to fight decisive battles–are really too busy to brood much about such things. They are, however, grateful when Congress acts ahead of time to bar technology transfers, not only the simple ones of which I speak but the more serious, albeit subtle ones, which can affect the outcome of battles and wars.
Today there is a new class of radically new and important radio frequency weapons (RFW) which merits your attention as it emerges. And in this case, the horse is out of the barn. Transfers have occurred and are occurring. Equally true, however, is the fact that there are things that can be done to protect our nation, which is the underlying objective of today’s hearing. Certainly one of these things is to recognize that export control documents, particularly the Militarily Critical Technologies List, needs to be reviewed to determine if radio frequency technologies should be considered in the same careful way we do nuclear technologies. I respectfully suggest that this is the case; stronger controls are needed. One example is Reltron tubes which went to a friendly nation, one who sells products widely–sometimes to nations who do not like us. These tubes, which can be small or large, generate intense radio frequency pulses and can be used as RF weapons.
Before we go further I wish to state clearly for you and for the public record that I do not speak for the Department of Defense, for any military service or any government agency. I come before you only as one who has researched this area for the past year and is writing a White Paper on the subject, one which will be offered to DoD for their use and disposition.
Some of you may know about radio frequency weapons, where they came from, what they can do and what the implications are.
Although there are a number of groups and individuals concerned with this subject, I have found that somewhat paradoxically the word has not really gotten out in Washington itself. Despite the existence of a Presidential commission, an Infrastructure Protection Task Force, a Critical Infrastructure Working Group, an Information Warfare School at the National Defense University, and other working groups, to include divisions on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, as well as a few very dedicated and brilliant mid-level people in DoD, a general understanding is lacking. This is true not only of RFW, but of their immediate threat to our DoD and national infrastructure. Indeed the term “infrastructure” is so amorphous that it lacks impact if not meaning. One of our first tasks will be to define what is the military and economic infrastructure and what in it is susceptible and vulnerable to RF weapons.
Some 90 to 100 references in 26 pages of the 70-page Quadrennial Defense Review speak to this new threat, but only to a discerning reader; the name for the class is not used. On the other hand, a recent search of the Internet found 2,400 to 2,800 references, while yet another, more thorough search found many tens of thousands of documents where the key words “radio frequency weapons” appear. Some very good people have written books and articles on the subject, the first revealing article known to me appeared in 1987 in the Atlantic Monthly, but for many reasons the knowledge is diffused. In the public sector the subject has yet to draw any real attention or concerted action.
To help set the stage, recognize with experts like a former NSA Director that we are the most vulnerable nation on earth to electronic warfare. This thought is echoed by a former CIA Deputy Director, and a former Deputy Attorney General who forecast that we will have an electronic Pearl Harbor if we do not accept a wake up call. Our vulnerability arises from the fact that we are the most advanced nation electronically and the greatest user of electricity in the world.
On the military side, as in the civilian sector, our current superiority is based on microelectronics. To prevail against us, an adversary must cripple, destroy or deny access to those same microelectronics. Can an adversary do so? Very likely, as this hearing will bring out. All of our military doctrine assumes extensive use of sophisticated electronics and communication systems to ensure information dominance and overwhelming battlefield success. As is the case with our civilian infrastructure and economy, our current dependence is large and will continue to grow. Because our battlefield success and the well being of our civilian economy–with which this committee is especially charged?-are so dependent upon the effectiveness of our microelectronic-based systems, we should fully understand any technology that might be used to defeat our systems. This is particularly true of the newly emerging threat of radio frequency weapons. And even more importantly, we must develop countermeasures before such weapons are used against us.
Before going further, let me explain what these weapons are, where the Russian work has gone since 1949 and the applications of these weapons. If you are interested–as I believe you will be–you may wish to bring before you successive panels of our own leading scientists and experts. I have talked to many of them, heard them make presentations at conferences, and read their articles and books. I will be pleased to provide your staff with names of those who could provide this or other committees with a better understanding. I am also willing to assist in any way that might be helpful.
First of all, an RF weapon is one that uses intense pulses of RF energy to destroy (“burnout”) or degrade (“upset”) the electronics in a target. These weapons can be employed on a narrow beam over a long distance to a point target. They are also able to cover broad targets. They are categorized as high power microwave (HPM) weapons and ultra wide band (UWB) weapons.
The phrase non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse is sometimes used, because these weapons, which are indeed non-nuclear, project the same type of pulse we first learned of in conjunction with nuclear weapons. As a practical matter, a piece of electronic gear on the ground, in a vehicle, ship or plane does not really care whether it is hit by a nuclear magnetic pulse or a non-nuclear one. The effect is the same. It burns out the electronics. The same is true of the computers in this Senate office building, in industry, or on Wall Street.
There is another way these weapons can be delivered to a target, military or civilian. Here the term RF munitions, or RFM is used. Yet these too are properly called RF weapons. These small munitions contain high explosives that produce radio frequency energy as their primary kill mechanism. In the hands of the skilled Russian scientists, these munitions come as hand grenades, mortar rounds, or large artillery shells or missiles. Generally, they produce a short but very intense pulse. While not yet fully understood and with some uncertainties argued as to their capabilities, many scientists are convinced the weapons actually exist. Without making any claims as to what they can do, I offer the following list from open source FSU literature of some nine smaller RF munitions or weapons:
- Magnetohydrodynamic Generator Frequency (MHDGF)
- Explosive Magnetic Generator of Frequency (EMGF)
- Implosive Magnetic Generator of Frequency (IMGF)
- Cylindrical Shock Wave Source (CSWS)
- Spherical Shock Wave Source (SSWS)
- Ferromagnetic Generator of Frequency (FMGF)
- Superconductive Former of Magnetic Field Shock Wave (SFMFSW)
- Piezoelectric Generator of Frequency (PEGF)
- Superconducting Ring Burst Generator (SCRBG)
Some of these weapons are said by the Russians to be now available as a hand grenade, a briefcase-like object, a mortar or artillery round.
Applications or potential targets (like those of the larger High Power Microwave weapons) would include all military computers, circuit boards, or chips, of any description, and include the following key components of our military and national infrastructure. They would have equal impact on civilian targets with the advantage less power would be required. Recall that the term “infrastructure” lacks clear meaning, but would include things like:
- The national telecommunications systems
- The national power grid
- The national transportation system, to include especially the FAA but also such simple things as our traffic lights (with consequent gridlock)
- The mass media
- Oil and gas control and refining
- Manufacturing processing, inventory control, shipment and tracking
- Public works
- Civil emergency service
- Finance and banking systems (to include bank’s ability to dispense cash)