Lieutenant General Robert L. Schweitzer
U.S. Army (Retired)
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
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
- 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
This list of potentially vulnerable
targets could and should be extended to include airplanes, ships, vehicles
and the like. Of interest is the fact that we are doubly vulnerable
because we are, and will remain, in an era of dual use of military and
civilian systems. For example, 90% of our military communications now
passes over public networks. If an electromagnetic pulse takes out the
telephone systems, we are in deep double trouble because our military
and non-military nets are virtually inseparable. It is almost equally
impossible to distinguish between the U.S. national telecommunications
network and the global one. What this means is that it is finally becoming
possible to do what Sun Tzu wrote about 2000 years ago: to conquer an
enemy without fighting. The paradigm of war may well be changing. If
you can take out the civilian economic infrastructure of a nation, then
that nation in addition to not being able to function internally cannot
deploy its military by air or sea, or supply them with any real effectiveness--if
Since 1949, the intense interest of
the former Soviet Union in developing these weapons appears to have
resulted from their recognition that they could not match the capability
of Western electronics, and their belief that RFW have the potential
to be effective against our sophisticated electronics. It is far less
clear to me and to others why they are willing to transfer and proliferate
the RF technologies they have developed so carefully and so well, but
that they are clearly doing so. Should you wish, a future hearing by
this or another committee could go into more detail.
President Yeltsin proposed to President
Clinton a joint program for a "plasmoid defense" against ICBM's. While
it is unclear to many scientists what President Yeltsin meant, such
a defense, if attainable, might presumably set up a shield which would
ionize the atmosphere and cause missiles to fail. Official Russian journals
and publications show keen interest and provide many details about these
weapons. A great amount of information is flowing continuously from
three former Soviet Republics on their past and current programs.
We do know that the reduction in military
spending by the FSU and many Western nations is prompting the defense
industries of many countries to offer advanced weaponry to foreign customers
to further their own research, development and industrial capabilities.
This trend is almost certain to grow over the next 10 years.
From unclassified sources, we know
that Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, China, Australia and France
are well ahead in this field, while Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan
and Israel are emerging and have ample details of the Russian work and
of the proceedings of more than 20 years of international conferences.
Without going into any classified matters one may reasonably infer that
the pariah nations have similar interests and some certainly have the
financial resources to develop or procure RF weapons.
Russian and FSU information on RFW
has been moving across borders for many years. International conferences
beginning in 1949 have been a principal source of technology transfer.
Scientists here and abroad have long exchanged papers, letters and,
with increasing frequency, telephone calls.
- The first Megagaussing Conference on the generation of high power
electromagnetic pulses took place in 1949 in Frascati, Italy. Russian
scientists were key players in what has become a long series of presentations
on the generation of electromagnetic power. Present at this and many
subsequent conferences was the U.S. inventor of RF weapons, Dr. Max
Fowler. His picture was placed over the center of the Moscow desk
of one of his Russian counterparts who is a leader in the Russian
development of the smaller version of these weapons. The latter is
a key figure in the offer to sell RFW and RFM or their technologies
- EUROEM Conferences have been meeting (with name changes) for perhaps
some 20 years at about two-year intervals. At the 1994 conference
which was held in Bordeaux, France, the Russians made public many
details of their long work in these weapons. Some of their papers
deal with the strategy, tactics and techniques for the use of offensive
RF weapons. Among nations participating were Iran and Iraq. At this
conference the Russians talked about selling their technology and
weapons to prospective buyers. I am told that subsequently a large
number of nations have engaged them in some form of negotiations.
Some of these "buyers" raise legitimate concerns.
- The BEAMS conference (with name changes) has been meeting about
every two years since 1975.
- The EUROEM Conference met in Albuquerque in 1996; the BEAMS Conference
met that same year, I believe in Prague. Attendance was open to all
- The next EUROEM and BEAMS conferences will meet in 1998 in the Middle
East, two weeks apart in Tel Aviv and Haifa, respectively.
- An International Pulse Power Conference held their tenth conference
under that name in 1995, but has existed under other names for a longer
period of time.
- The International Particle Accelerator Conference has also met for
more than 20 years.
- The American Physical Society has a Plasma Physics Division which
hosted (for more than 20 years) many conferences. Usually each one
has several sessions on microwave generation.
- And there are more. . .
Understanding the number, frequency
and long standing nature of these conferences, you can perhaps better
appreciate why I earlier said that the horse is out of the barn. Of
interest, too, is the role of the United States in these conferences.
Indisputably, the U.S. is the scientific powerhouse of the world. We
have initiated and hosted a number of these conferences, funded many
of them to a significant degree, and played a prominent role at all.
While we gain some information, our scientists will readily acknowledge
the net advantage is always to other attendees.
Put another way, from a narrow technology
transfer standpoint we have thus far lost more than we gained. However,
even prior to the Internet no one could control the flow of ideas, especially
among scientists. They like to talk especially about what they have
achieved, and how they solve theoretical and practical problems. For
decades our scientists have found their Russian counterparts to be brilliant,
dedicated and creative. Personal relations are important and some have
developed, but they are exceptional. For the most part the Russians
have been ambiguous about their great work and often are mistrustful
of Americans. We should move to change that by closer and warmer contacts
as well as by efforts to enter into joint ventures--with all the travails
that accompany such efforts. The Russians are intensely interested in
our comments and some professional appreciation by their scientific
peers of their decades of work on the offensive use of RF weapons. In
my humble opinion they would prefer to work with our own distinguished
scientists rather than others, but will sell their technology and products
to others. I believe there is a real potential for joint ventures which
could serve to constrain to some degree the proliferation of these weapons,
especially to those who would do us harm.
To return to the earlier point about
the need for better controls of technology transfer, consider these
two counterpoints which illustrate the problem:
- First: Although RF weapon components are on the Critical Technologies
List, there are no up to date DoD guidelines or directives on this
subject. An attempt to do so was made two years ago when little was
known about the subject. As a consequence, decisions within the U.S.
scientific community are becoming harder and dicier to make. There
is a lack of clear policy guidance and direction.
- Second: The first point is illustrated by the transfer of the Reltron
microwave tubes. These tubes, which generate radio frequency power,
cost a great deal of money to produce and test. The U.S. is the leader
in high-power tubes and their associated power systems, but the market
is really thin. Our tube industry has no current buyers here in the
U.S. Without major contracts from foreign countries (France, the United
Kingdom, Germany and Israel, among others), our tube industry will
die. We will lose contact with real customers and become dependent
on foreign hardware for our systems. Ultimately we will increase the
difficulties that must be overcome to develop HPM applications for
any future DoD use. Almost certainly we would know less--almost nothing--about
what was going on in this area. For their part the Europeans and others
would not cease to procure; they would simply undertake their own
development. So our high power microwave scientific community told
the State Department on balance to approve the transfer, which State
did. Inevitably one consequence will be to advance the work of others
and ultimately the production of RF devices to be used wherever and
however by whomever. Note well, however: there is no guarantee that
friendly countries will not sell the devices they produce to unfriendly,
even hateful people.
It would also appear that there are
other proliferation and transfer concerns of interest to this committee,
simply because there is so much accurate how-to-do information in the
open literature and on the Internet. Several countries have RFW programs
and Russia says it has sold some technologies to these countries. At
least one of these countries has acknowledged such a transfer. The crux
of the difficulty in controlling these transfers is best illustrated
by the fact that High Power Microwave weapons look like ordinary radars.
With a dish or horn antenna, and a van with a power source, an RFW would
look like a new, used or renovated radar. Used ones are offered for
sale today in military surplus and commercial catalogs. Other catalogs
offer for sale the components to put together lower power, but also
very low cost items, that once assembled could be used effectively against
Users of the new weapons can be criminals,
individuals or organized gangs of narco or domestic terrorists--or a
determined, organized, well-funded foreign adversary, either a group
or nation who hates us.
The Russians, as noted, led with this
work starting in 1949 with theory. By 1961, they were doing research,
as documented in their numerous unclassified scientific articles. Experiments
began in the seventies and proceeded to testing as described in their
publications. Many of these weapons appeared in written descriptions,
some photographs and diagrams in the nineties. Strategy, doctrine, tactics
and techniques are all laid out in rather clear form. Please note all
of this is unclassified information.
There is a legitimate question about
the intelligence aspect of all of this. Our intelligence community largely
proceeds on the operating principle followed in the Cold War: A threat
is not validated until it is fielded. Well and good; hard evidence is
But the question may fairly be asked:
does that principle serve us well in the present day? Suppose we were
to take a Russian or FSU-designed weapon, fabricate it in the U.S. and
test it here. If the results were to meet the standards of performance
and capabilities now claimed by the Russians, would we then have a validated
threat? The answer to the capabilities may be forthcoming this month
because at an unclassified level one of our national labs is doing just
that. Another lab has purchased cheap, off the shelf components and
will test its lower power device this month. Their engineers and I believe
it will indeed work against infrastructure and light military targets.
There is a great deal of other corroborating
evidence which at least argues for the existence--which is still disputed
in some quarters--of these weapons: one minor one is an International
Institute for the Prevention of Offensive RF Weapons, located in Philadelphia.
Why such an institute if there are no such things? Evidence as to the
capabilities of the weapons may be found in such recent statements as
China's declared intention to purchase three RF weapons derived from
the Russian technology. Another is the series of reliably reported discussions
within the IRA of their intention to seek RF weapons for use against
the London financial system in lieu of bombs and explosives. Consider,
too, the recent statement by Sweden they have used these devices in
experiments to stop cars at 100 yards, as well as their reported claim
that RF weapons have been used against their financial institutions.
A similar but much disputed statement has been reported by the London
Times concerning British financial and banking institutions. The Los
Angeles Police Department had done some successful work with vehicles
in the interests of public safety and to halt fleeing suspects. Advantages
of the larger high power microwave RF weapons include:
- Low cost per engagement
- All weather
- Instantaneous engagement times
- Simplified pointing and tracking
- Possible to engage multiple targets
- Deep magazines-simplified logistics (can "fire" or pulse as long
as there is power in the generator)
- Non-lethal to humans when properly adjusted
- Well suited to covert operations because of lack of signature; deniability
- Not able to detect attacks; silent when used without explosive devices
The RFM offer many of the same advantages, offset only by the sound
of the explosion that detonates them and produces the rise in pulse
Unless we choose to be, we are not without courses of action. Some
of these could be explored at a future hearing. Some preliminary thoughts
are offered today:
- We either fully understand nor control this technology.
- We have not begun to work on defenses , especially for our vulnerable
- We need to first scope the problem, determine susceptibilities and
vulnerabilities, then test.
- All of this, to include any appropriate hardening of existing components,
will take many years.
- There are other courses of corrective action, but all will take
time to acquire and apply.
- The first step might well be to bring forward our real RF experts
in DoD and the scientific community who know what needs to be done.
We need to go at this problem with a step-by-step sensible approach.
No budget buster is proposed. Even if Congress had ready funds, a grandiose
national solution is not the way to go.
We can start by scoping the problem and then by applying some of the
same low-cost components that are now used in the ever expanding information
technologies. Examples are surge-like protectors, plasma limiters, diodes,
and metal covers. Parallel or redundant systems are another technique.
We are good at managing risks. We should no longer hesitate to reduce
the impact of the threat, or to give our intelligence community the
guidance to open up (some would say revise) their approach to this problem.
Clearly the United States Congress will play a key role in whatever
we do, or choose not to do, and our top leadership should focus on the
longer term. But we should begin now in a sensible, modest way.
Three things we want to keep foremost in mind:
- Do not throw a lot of money at this problem. Funds don't exist;
the best solutions will have to be devised.
- Do not tell DoD or the Services to take this out of their budgets.
They are over stretched now and it would be wrong to tell them to
pay for protection of the civilian infrastructure.
- Do not continue to do what we have been doing and ignore the problem.