Dr. Ira W. Merritt
Chief, Concepts Identification and Applications Analysis
Directorate, Missile Defense and Space Technology Center
U. S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command
Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress
Wednesday, February 25, 1998
"Proliferation and Significance of Radio Frequency Weapons Technology"
Thank you for your invitation and for this opportunity to offer testimony
to the Joint Economic Committee regarding the proliferation of radio frequency
(RF) weapons technology and its significance to the operability of our
high value assets. I am employed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense
Command, but some of the opinions and conclusions expressed are based
upon my own past experiences and observations and are not necessarily
those of the Army.
I am from the Advanced Technology Directorate (ATD) of the Missile Defense
and Space Technology Center, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
One of our principal responsibilities is to develop innovative and advanced
technologies for application to Army projects, joint missile defense projects
and other programs of national importance. In particular, ATD evaluates
the capabilities of technologies, including radio frequency weapon technologies,
to establish their significance to the operability of our sophisticated
electronics. Our interest in RF weapon technologies has increased in the
last several years as a result of:
advances in RF sources and antennas|
interest by other countries, and groups, in RF weapons and RF mitigation|
susceptibility to microwaves of miniature solid state electronics|
from our travel to Russia and from ongoing technical exchanges with
Former Soviet Union scientists and co-workers in United Kingdom,
Sweden, and Australia.|
Our work with Russian scientists has been particularly useful in confirming
that their approaches to technical problems are often very different from
ours. Over the past several years we have visited laboratories developing
directed energy weapon technologies, pulsed power systems, high power
microwave technologies, high power lasers, and space-based neutral particle
beams. In 1992, we visited the Moscow Radio Technical Institute, which
was developing high-power microwave (HPM) sources and which had a large
test facility for performing susceptibility and effects measurements.
In 1994, we visited the Kharkov Physico-Technical Institute in Ukraine,
where they were developing: high power microwave sources, such as the
magnetically insulated linear oscillator (MILO); neutral particle beam
sources; prime power systems; and where they were also performing susceptibility
and effects tests. The MILO was invented in the U.S., but we discontinued
work on it in the late 1980s. The Soviet Union (SU) picked up the technology
and successfully continued its development. Russia also exploited the
magnetocumulative generator (MCG) as an explosively driven power supply.
The MCG was developed by Dr. Andrei Sakharov in the SU and the Russians
have used MCG power supplies extensively to drive ultra wideband (UWB)
and HPM sources, lasers, and railguns. In 1995 we visited: the Kurchatov
Institute to discuss laser and high current problems, the All-Russian
Electrotechnical Institute to discuss high voltage technology, Ioffe Physico-Technical
Institute in St. Petersburg to discuss ultra fast switches, and the Institute
of Problems of Electrophysics, also in St. Petersburg, to discuss pulse
power and plasma technologies. My comments in the rest of this testimony
are based upon the results of visits to Russian laboratories, visits to
other countries, continued scientific contacts, research reports from
contracts, some test results and open source literature.
History: It has long
been a concern in the scientific community that Soviet scientists led
the world in development of RF weapon technologies. This concern was heightened
in 1994 when Gen. Loborev, Director of the Central Institute of Physics
and Technology in Moscow, distributed a landmark paper at the EUROEM Conference
in Bordeaux, France. In this paper Dr. A. B. Prishchepenko, the Russian
inventor of a family of compact explosive driven RF munitions, described
how RF munitions might be used against a variety of targets including
land mines, sea skimming missiles, and communications systems1,
2, 3. He further popularized these munitions with articles in
Russian naval journals and in other professional journals and magazines4.
The Soviet Union had a large and diverse RF weapons program and remnants
of this work continue today within FSU countries. The scope and results
of the Soviet program are poorly understood, but ATD personnel have been
at the forefront of efforts to gather information and to understand it5
and its accomplishments through Windows on Science and contracts for R&D
effort. Our principal objective is to understand requirements and to identify
technologies applicable for RF mitigation. Nevertheless, large uncertainties
still exist concerning the status of RF weapon development and associated
efforts to mitigate their effects on electronics. In spite of these uncertainties,
it is clear that many nations continue to aggressively pursue the development
of RF weapons and techniques to mitigate their effects6.
interest in RF weapons has increased dramatically in the last several
years. The collapse of the Soviet Union is probably the most significant
factor contributing to this increase in attention and concern about proliferation.
A recent study of open source literature dealing with RF weapons6 clearly
documented the worldwide interest in RF weapon technologies and my testimony
is offered in the context of these conclusions. A few of the report's
key judgments were that:
- ".construction of effective
explosively-driven Flux Compression Generator devices is entirely
feasible for established military powers such as Russia, China, France,
Germany, et cetera,."
- "There is no confirmed evidence
of employment of such a device to date . available in open sources".
- "Modern Metal Oxide Semiconductor
technology, on which most of our critical national infrastructures
depend, unless deliberately protected or "hardened", is extremely
vulnerable to even low-power electromagnetic pulses..."
- ".it is well understood that
the US is disproportionately more vulnerable to RF attack than are
less developed nations."
Specific examples of interest in RF weapons and the proliferation of this
technology follow. The French Gramat Research Center has dedicated significant
assets to study the effects of electromagnetic energy on electronics and
in 1989 Thompson CSF published brochures in which they stated that they
were developing RF weapons7. A 21 January,
1998 newspaper article in the Swedish newspaper SVESNSKA DAGBLADET8
reported that the Swedish National Defense Research Institute purchased
a Russian "suitcase bomb" that uses high power microwaves to "knock out"
computers and destroy all electronics within the radius of its "detonation".
The article also reported that this device is being sold commercially
and that it has been sold to the Australian military. The price was reported
to be several hundred thousand Kroner, or about $100,000. Mr. Carlo Kopp,
an Australian professor, who claims to have had a relationship with their
military, has his own web site (http://www.cs.monash.edu.au/~carlo)
and has provided detailed papers on the alleged effects of RF weapons
and sketches of design concepts9. A
simple search on the Internet recently identified 95 websites that referenced
Mr. Kopp's work. These included 16 sites in the U.S. and 18 sites in other
countries, not including Australia. The Internet is becoming a significant
factor in enhancing the interest in RF weapons.
Waveforms and Susceptibility:
State of the art semiconductors are becoming more vulnerable to the effects
of radio frequency energy as semiconductor features become smaller and
smaller10, 11, 12. Commercial microelectronics
make heavy use of metal oxide semiconductor devices which fail when subjected
to voltages that exceed the dielectric strength of the component or when
the device melts as a result of heating from currents induced by the RF
High-power microwave and ultra wideband signals differ in their pulse
length and frequency content (Figure 1). HPM sources produce short, very
high power, narrowband pulses, often billions of watts (gigawatts) in
billionths of a second (nanoseconds). If HPM waveforms are in-band, they
can efficiently couple energy into the target and energy is available
to disrupt or to cause damage to sensitive "front door" components that
are connected to antennas. However if the HPM frequency is not in-band,
the energy must enter through a "back door" and coupling to the target
is generally poor. In this case, much less energy enters the target to
disrupt or to cause damage. UWB sources generate a much wider band of
frequencies than do HPM sources, and thus ensure that some energy is at
a frequency to efficiently couple to the target. However, since the energy
is spread across a wider band, the power spectral density is lower and
the amount of energy available in a waveband is also much lower. As a
result, an UWB device is more likely to disrupt than to destroy a target,
except at very close range. Many UWB sources can be repetitively pulsed
and therefore can continue to disrupt the target as long as the source
is functioning and within effective range. Many systems tend to be susceptible
to disruption or damage at specific, sometimes unpredictable, frequencies.
As a result, UWB weapons are well suited to exploit these susceptibilities,
since they produce significant energy over a wide range of frequencies.
This area has been aggressively researched by the Soviet Union, Russia,
Extensive work has been conducted to understand the effects of high-altitude
nuclear EMP (HEMP) on systems and components, but these data are mostly
for frequencies less than 1 GHz and for pulse widths in the range from
50 nsec to 1usec. The shorter pulses characteristic of HPM and UWB waveforms
are significant because current methods for protecting electronics from
HEMP, and other anticipated sources of disruption, will not be effective
against pulses from RF weapons. High-altitude nuclear EMP does not have
significant energy above a few tens of megahertz, whereas HPM spectra
are typically in the few gigahertz to tens of gigahertz range and UWB
spectra may contain energy in the frequency range from hundreds of megahertz
to a few gigahertz. There is extensive information on the effects of lightning
and nuclear EMP on electronic devices, but these pulses are significantly
longer than the pulses from HPM and UWB sources. Since HPM and UWB pulses
tend to be shorter than the response times of most limiters, their RF
energy can pass largely unattenuated into the target and cause upset or
damage before the limiter can turn on. Tests over the last 10 years have
produced data on component responses to pulse widths in the range from
1 to 50 nsec. However little information is available that describes electronic
responses for incident pulses having sub-nanosecond pulsewidths. Testing
is needed to establish effects of the following general waveforms: very
short (nanosecond and sub-nanosecond) single pulses, multiple closely-spaced
very-short pulses, and long (millisecond) pulses.
Much of the existing effects data is from direct drive tests. Such tests
produce the most repeatable indication of whether or not the pulse in
question will upset or damage the device being tested. However these tests
do not help clarify the issue of whether or not the RF waveform in question
will actually couple through the walls, openings, filters, cables, and
wires that separate components at risk from the external environment.
This uncertainty creates a situation in which even the best analysis must
be based upon significant assumptions. As a result, our commercial and
military systems may be much more, or much less, susceptible to upset
or damage than we now assume. As a result, characterization of representative
components and circuits and the effects of physical configurations are
badly needed for very short pulses.
A 1996 paper by Bludov, et al12 from the Kharkov Physico-Technical Institute,
Ukraine described HPM and UWB testing on electronic components and biological
systems. The paper identified three levels of damage: temporary upset,
permanent upset, and burnout. It appears that Ukraine has a systematic
program to characterize the effects of HPM and UWB waveforms on electronic
Example Weapon Related Technologies
RF weapon-related sources can be classified in several ways, including:
HPM or UWB, pulsed or continuous, single shot or repetitively pulsed,
and very short pulse (nanosecond) or long pulse (microsecond to millisecond).
In addition, the electrical or explosive power source has a significant
effect on the output characteristics of the device. For example, the explosive
driven munitions described by Mr. Carlo Kopp and the RF munitions described
by Dr. Prishchepenko are single shot devices that convert the chemical
energy of high explosives first into magnetic energy, then into electrical
energy and finally into microwave energy. This multi-step conversion of
energy is inherently inefficient, but explosives are very compact sources
of energy, modern electronics are not very robust to external sources
of energy, and the intent is to place the source/weapon as close to the
target as possible. Electrically driven devices have fewer energy conversion
steps, but typically they are larger and produce less power per pulse.
Electrically Driven Devices:
The electrically driven (non-explosive) devices require an external power
supply and energy storage system, which often leads to larger and less
self-contained systems than can be produced by explosive-driven approaches.
However, two recent technologies that minimize this limitation are the
solid state pulsers developed at Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in
St. Petersburg and the RADAN system. These devices are quite compact and
can be powered by small hand-carried energy sources.
Pulsers developed at Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute are based upon
very fast (nanosecond and picosecond) solid state "on" and "off" switches
developed by Prof. Igor Grekhov and Dr. Alexi Kardo-Syssoev. These switches
have recently been used to generate 10 nanosecond, 10 KHz pulses for a
prototype ground penetrating sensor that is now being used commercially
in St. Petersburg (Figure 2). This 10 kg portable sensor is said to be
used routinely to image to depths of 200 meters with an accuracy of 1%
of the depth and it is claimed to be able to image down to 1000 meters
with slightly lower resolution13. Jammers
based upon these switches can be made small enough to fit into a briefcase.
A recent version is said to weigh 6.5 kg and to deliver fields of 30 kV
per meter at 5 meters. This is comparable to high-altitude EMP (HEMP)
field strength. An optimized version is said to deliver 100 kV per meter
at 5 meters14, 15 and the pulse width
and repetition rate can be tuned to have the maximum effect on the intended
RADAN16 (Figure 3) is a compact high-current
electron accelerator that is a little smaller than an attaché case and
weighs about 8 kg with its rechargeable 12 volt battery power supply,
but not including its antenna. RADAN can be used to stimulate several
outputs including lasers, x-rays, wide band RF and high power microwaves
that allow RADAN to be used as a jammer. RADAN output parameters are:
total output power > 5 MW; repetition rate up to 1 kilohertz; pulse width
about 2 nanoseconds; and output pulse bandwidth from 1 MHz to 5 GHz. A
directional antenna has been developed and the developer has proposed
that RADAN could be used to stop car engines and to destroy the electronic
arming and firing circuits of bombs. Limited testing of RADAN has been
conducted in the U.S. and it was found to affect calculators and electronic
The Russian built NAGIRA radar produces short powerful pulses with the
following characteristics17: 10 GHz
fixed frequency, 5 nanosecond pulse length, 300 MW peak power, 2 Joules
per pulse, 150 Hz pulse repetition rate. NAGIRA was purchased by the UK
Ministry of Defence and was delivered to Defence Research and Evaluation
Agency (DERA) Frazer, near Portsmouth, in November 1995. Indications are
that the UK will use NAGIRA to investigate detection of fast moving targets
in sea clutter, to study electromagnetic-pulse penetration into equipment
and to measure the effectiveness of front-end protection devices. During
initial field trials near Nizhny Novgorod, Russia (Figure 4), NAGIRA was
able to track a helicopter at more than 150 km range and at altitudes
as low as 50 meters. We understand that because of electromagnetic interference
(EMI) concerns, Russian helicopters were not allowed to operate within
several miles of the radar when it was operating at full power.
Explosively Driven Devices:
Compact explosive-driven radio frequency munitions (Figure 5) being developed
by Russia have recently received a great deal of attention. These munitions
are claimed to range in size from a hand grenade to a 155-mm artillery
shell18 and the output may be either
a HPM or an UWB pulse. Since these warheads are part of a projectile,
they are intended to detonate very near their target, so fratricide is
not a problem as it would be with HEMP.
In June 1997, a U.S. measurements team led by the Advanced Technology
Directorate participated in a joint series of measurements on radio frequency
munitions (RFM) at a site near Nalchik, Russia5. The purpose of these
tests was to verify Russian claims about the output of Dr. Prishchepenko's
compact explosively-driven RFM. The test results left Russian claims unconfirmed,
since most U.S. measurement equipment was not allowed by Russian authorities
to reach the test site and since Dr. Prishchepenko's team claimed that
the RFM that were tested radiated in a band that could not be measured
with equipment at the site.
ATD engineers continue to evaluate RF weapon technologies, to work closely
with other countries, and to identify technologies that can be adopted
for military applications and commercialization. We maintain relationships
with other scientists through direct personal contact at conferences and
site visits, through small research contracts, in collaboration with the
U.S. Department of State on International Science and Technology Center
(ISTC) and Science and Technology Center of the Ukraine (STCU) projects,
and through the U.S. Air Force's Windows on Science Program. ATD has been
extremely effective in identifying and executing joint projects, such
as the joint radio frequency munitions test in Russia and briefings on
the solid state pulsers developed at the Ioffe Institute in St. Petersburg.
We are now working to bring the underground imaging sensor and its developers
to the U.S. to test its ability to detect land mines. Solid state switches
developed by the Ioffe Institute are now imported by a U.S. company that
produces water purification equipment using Russian pulse power hardware.
ATD has cooperated in hosting many scientists under the Windows on Science
Program, including a scientist from Loughborough University in England,
the only university that designs, tests, produces and markets inexpensive
Many source and antenna technologies can be used to produce devices with
very different output characteristics. For example, Russia reports that
its cylindrical shock wave source generates a single gigawatt pulse about
a nanosecond long. However, susceptibility tests in the FSU and U.S. suggest
that irradiating a target with a train of nanosecond pulses is more damaging
than a single pulse, since multiple pulses lower the damage threshold
of the target12. As a result, Russian emphasis has been on devices that
produce a train of pulses. Some designs are said to generate 50 to 100
pulses, each about a nanosecond long, in a burst of pulses about 10 microseconds
The implications of this summary are that there is an increasing variety
of equipment capable of generating very short RF pulses that are capable
of disrupting sophisticated electronics. These pulses are not addressed
by current design standards and will challenge existing front-end RF protection
and other forms of EMI protection. New capabilities are needed to reject
high-power, very-fast RF pulses and to minimize their effects on systems.
We believe that common EMI and EMP mitigation techniques will not provide
adequate protection against nanosecond and sub-nanosecond pulses from
future radio frequency weapons, since active mitigation device response
times are typically several nanoseconds to microseconds. Faster solid-state
devices do not now have the high power capability needed to protect systems
from RFW pulses.
RF RISK MANAGEMENT
Several fundamental questions must be answered before we can adequately
understand the potential risk that radio frequency weapons pose to our
military forces and civilian infrastructure. These questions are:
"What are the current
and expected capabilities of RF weapon technologies?" "What are the effects
of these weapons on potential targets?" and "What is the likelihood that
our systems will be exposed to RF weapons as a result of terrorism, conventional
As I have stated, Advanced Technology Directorate has initiated high payoff
research and development efforts to understand RF weapons technologies
and we have also begun to develop broadly applicable RF mitigation techniques
that can ensure the operability of our high-value assets in the presence
of stressing electronic warfare environments. Our emphasis is on development
of near-term, low-cost capabilities that are applicable to a broad range
of military and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics and that are
relatively insensitive to the details of RF weapon output. We are achieving
success in this effort and believe that superior results can be obtained
by selectively involving a relatively small number of highly innovative
and skilled researchers and that this can be done without a great commitment
of funds. For example, one of our recent $100,000 research efforts provided
test results that demonstrated the ability of a low-temperature sinterable
liquid to reduce external RF fields by many orders of magnitude over a
frequency range from a few megahertz to a few gigahertz. This low-cost
material has broad military and commercial applications. It will greatly
enhance our ability to use COTS electronics on the digital battlefield
and to protect key elements of the national infrastructure.
In my opinion, a more comprehensive risk mitigation effort should include
the following tasks:
expected electromagnetic environments by analyzing and understanding
rapidly advancing RF source and antenna technologies. A variety
of RF sources have been identified that could be used in RF weapons
and that produce environments that can challenge the operability
of our systems. We should evaluate these technologies, assess their
potential for weaponization, and provide information to guide hardening
measures required to mitigate their effects. The results of this
task should be:
- credible information
on the output of electrically-driven and explosively-driven
- much better understanding
of the capability of the rest of the world to threaten the
performance of our sophisticated electronic systems,
- much stronger technical
basis on which to develop broadly effective and low-cost RF
tests to determine the effects of short pulse RF waveforms on representative
electronic components, subsystems and systems. This task should
establish the effects of anticipated radio frequency weapon waveforms
on representative circuits to provide a basis for development of
mitigation techniques for COTS and military electronics. It should
test representative electronic circuits to RF weapon-like waveforms
in a laboratory environment to better predict the coupling of RF
energy into targets and to measure the effects on targets. The targets
characterized should consist of representative classes of COTS and
military electronics, i.e. commercial Global Positioning System
(GPS) receivers, radios, computers, satellite communication systems,
components from tactical operations centers (TOCs), etc. This effort
should leverage ongoing Defense Special Weapons Agency (DSWA) EMP
and HPM mitigation activities, which address a part of this problem,
and should jointly select synergistic items for testing. This will
permit unique insights into the robustness of representative electronics
to all types of RF disturbances. The target electronics should be
tested in anechoic chambers available at several service facilities
and should use appropriate RF sources to ensure repeatable waveforms
at the appropriate power levels and with appropriate frequency content.
The target electronics should be instrumented so that both the effects
of the radiation and the method of coupling can be determined. These
results will permit quantification of the specific performance/capability
needed for each mitigation technique.
the results of effects tests to develop front-end limiters and electromagnetic
interference (EMI) shields. This task should develop and quantify
mitigation capabilities and implementation guidelines for low-cost,
low insertion loss, miniature plasma limiters and low-cost, very
light-weight films, filters, and software algorithms to reduce internal
and external electromagnetic interference produced by either local/friendly
emissions or high power hostile emissions. Since RF warfare and
EMI spectra cover such a broad range of frequencies and power levels,
several mitigation techniques will be required.
methods of EMI isolation often use metal enclosures to prevent
unwanted radiation from entering the circuit. These shields
provides effective protection, but they add weight and are
not applicable to some newer systems that may use COTS with
lightweight, nonmetallic enclosures that provide little
or no EMI protection. Low-cost, light-weight RF isolation
techniques are needed that can be cheaply applied to COTS
and military equipment to significantly increase their ability
to continuously operate on the electronic battlefield.
are now being performed on miniature plasma limiter front-end
protection devices that are compatible with solid state
manufacturing processes. Analysis will confirm the feasibility
of a low-loss miniature plasma limiter and its essential
parameters such as threshold electric fields, gas breakdown
and recombination times. This device is intended to be installed
in front of sensitive antenna and receiver elements to protect
them from damage or disruption by incident high power RF
We cannot now precisely quantify the risk presented by radio frequency
weapons, but we know that the risk is growing. I believe that we can respond
to this risk by developing near-term, low-cost, broadly-applicable mitigation
techniques. These techniques can greatly reduce our susceptibility to
radio frequency weapon environments and thereby reduce the risk to our
technological superiority that is essential to our military and economic
I again thank the Committee for the opportunity to appear and to comment
on the proliferation of radio frequency weapons and their significance
to our critical infrastructures.
Shock Wave Source
Special Weapons Agency
Science and Technology Center
Insulated Linear Oscillator
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