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Electromagnetic Pulse-From Chaos to a

Manageable Solution
AUTHOR Major M. CaJohn, USMC

CSC 1988

I. Purpose: Alert our military and civilian personnel that electromagnetic pulse
(EMP) is an enemy to our survival, and investigate how we can defeat this foe
with current equipment and technology.
II. Problem: Although EMP has been known to exist for many years, its catastrophic
impact on our strategic and tactical communications systems and weapons, as
well as our civilian communications systems are not widely understood or
accepted. Acceptance of this problem
III. is being absorbed in the military establishment; however, the civilian sector is
slow to respond.
IV. Data: Escalation between the United States (US) and Russia reach an insolvable
solution. Russia launches a nuclear missile attack; however, before the US can
retaliate Russia explodes a high altitude nuclear weapon which renders the US's
retaliatory capabilities useless. All aspects of EMP and the systems it attacks are
described in detail. The effects of EMP are explored from the naiveté of our
scientists to the comparison of EMP to lightning. Interest grows within our
country to defeat this enemy and the leading agency is the military. The military
establishes testing facilities to learn about the effects of EMP. The results of
these testing facilities are hardened programs for our strategic communications
systems and weapons. The Army established a program that ensures all new
equipment will be designed to be EMP hardened.
V. The military has made significant strides in the strategic field and is attacking the
problem in the tactical arena. However, the civilian community is lacking in a
commitment to defeat EMP.
VI. Solutions to the problems of EMP are proposed using today's equipment and
VII. Conclusions: EMP can be defeated. The military has a sound and viable program
in its strategic communications systems and weapons; however, the military must
emphasize an EMP training and field expedient program in its tactical
communications systems until EMP hardened equipment is procured. The
civilian sector has no EMP program and must get one to ensure it can survive an
EMP environment.
VIII. Recommendations: Military leaders must stress and implement an EMP training
and field expedient technique program. The military must continue to procure
strategic and tactical equipment that is EMP hardened. Government agencies
must encourage our civilian sector to build new communications systems that will
withstand an EMP environment.

Thesis Statement: Although electromagnetic pulse will disrupt or destroy essential
communications systems, it is possible to establish a manageable and survivable
communications system, which will ensure the United States can survive a nuclear attack.
I. Nature of EMP
A. What does a nuclear weapon produce
1. Surface burst (EMP)
2. High altitude EMP (HEMP)
3. Source region EMP (SREMP)
4. System generated (SGEMP)
II. Effects of EMP
A. Initially no scientist anticipated the serious effects of EMP
B. Detonation of a nuclear device over Johnston Island produced
disastrous effects in Hawaii
C. Concerns of EMP on high tech communications
D. Compare EMP with lightning
III. Remedies for the effects of EMP
A. The growth of interest in the U.S.
B. U.S. builds test facilities to counter EMP
C. Two ways to protect communications systems from EMP
IV. Current EMP hardening programs
A. The Army's program
B. Strategic systems that are being EMP hardened
1. Communications systems
2. Aircraft
3. Weapons
V. Problems remaining
A. Civilian industry has no regard for EMP
B. Military's lack of tactical communications systems that is EMP
VI. Proposed solutions
A. FEMA conducts a study for the civilian sector
1. Must make recommendations
2. Must have a cost estimate
B. Military must stress
1. Training
2. Practice field expedient measures
VII. Summary
A. EMP is a threat to unprotected communications systems
B. Military must establish sound EMP management and maintenance
programs to neutralize the effects of EMP
C. Problems can be conquered, but need more emphasis by our
nation's leaders in the civilian and military communities


Tension between the United States and the Soviet Union reaches new heights as both
countries counter each other’s offensive moves. The Soviet Union initiates the first move
when it masses thirty divisions along East Germany's western border during a time when
there are no field exercises scheduled. The United States counters this move by placing
the Fifth and Seventh Corps on alert and placing them in their forward defensive
positions, and the United States begins the mechanism to mobilize its reserve. The
Soviets counter this act by massing another twenty-five divisions along Yugoslavia's
western border, which gives them the capability to strike quickly and deeply into Italy.
The United States counters this by deploying the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Air
Cavalry divisions to bolster the Italian defense. The United States puts its maritime
strategy into action by deploying four aircraft carrier battle groups into the Norwegian
Fjords. The Soviets counter this show of force by bringing all their nuclear attack
submarines and missile launching submarines into their "homeland" protective waters.
Each country's leaders use the "hot line" attempting to defuse this major crisis. The
leaders of the super powers agree to launch a spy satellite to collect information and
monitor each country's moves. In accordance with the space agreement the satellites are
registered with the United States Space Command and both satellites are launched at the
prescribed time. Three days later the tension between the two super powers ebbs. Then at
0500 Eastern Daylight Time the United States early warning satellites suddenly detect
several Russian nuclear missile launchings from two Typhoon submarines (one on each
coast). An alert is sent to the United States military commands around the world. The
Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) now tracks the incoming missiles and
predicts their impact points within the Continental United States.
The President of the United States is awakened and apprised of the situation. The
president initiates a telephone conference call between the various unified and specified
commands. Meanwhile, the Russian spy satellite, 500 kilometers over the central United
States, explodes with a 400 kiloton force generating a high energy electromagnetic pulse
covering the entire United States. The president orders a massive retaliation by the
United States' triad forces, but nothing happens.
The United States triad of Air Force bombers and missiles, and the Navy's Trident
submarines stand by awaiting orders to launch; however, their communications systems
are inoperative. Both military and civilian communications systems are crippled or
destroyed by the electromagnetic pulse. Although electromagnetic pulse will disrupt and
destroy essential communications systems; it is possible to establish a manageable and
survivable communications system, which will allow the United States to survive a
nuclear attack.
The effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warrant increased efforts to neutralize their
potential to create chaos with communications systems. EMP is a killer of unprotected
electrical and electronics equipment. It’s effect of inducing extremely large and very
rapid surges of voltage and current through electrical conducting materials, offer unique
leadership and engineering challenges to our country. With its current nuclear strategy of
flexible response and controlled escalation, the United States places great reliance upon
its command, control, and communications systems. However, the most vulnerable
component of the United States is the same command, control and communications
systems that is so essential. This weakness in our command, control and communications
systems is exactly what the Soviets will attack. Indications are that the Soviets will
probably use a high-altitude nuclear burst to generate enough EMP to completely destroy
or incapacitate the civil and military communications systems, missiles, aircraft control
systems and radar systems(12:2-6-8). This analysis further indicates that EMP effects are
integrated into Soviet strategic and tactical planning, especially at the outset of any
nuclear exchange, as the Soviets always plan to use nuclear weapons at their choosing
and not as a retaliatory response (13:2-4).
The U.S. military was slow to realize the vulnerability of its command, control and
communications systems. Nevertheless, improving this communications network is now
the number one priority among all new strategic programs. In this paper, I will describe
the nature of EMP, its effects and remedies for them. In addition, I will highlight two
problem areas and pose solutions to them. The EMP threat is solvable, as there is enough
scientific and engineering knowledge currently available to insure the survivability of
communications systems from EMP effects.
The detonation of a nuclear weapon produces several direct outputs in the form of
neutrons, electrons, fission fragments, bomb debris, alpha particles, gamma photons and
x-rays. In addition, the interaction of the gamma rays and x-rays with the atmosphere
creates the indirect weapon effects of electromagnetic pulse
EMP is a pulse of electromagnetic energy of extremely short duration. Initially called
radio flash, EMP is similar to the simultaneous transmission of a large number of radio
waves varying from one KHz to 100 MHz and peak field amplitudes produced are very
large on the order of 50 kilovolts (kv) per meter (4:72 and 9:1-20). The formation of
EMP results from the collision of the gamma photons emitted from a nuclear detonation
and interacts with atoms in the outer atmosphere. This results in the ejection of electrons
and the creation of a strong ionized area referred to as the source field region. This
complicated process occurs in a few billionths of a second (nanoseconds) and last one
millionth of a second (millisecond), which produces a strong electric field that radiates
away from the source region (4:72-74). This radiated field is EMP.
A number of parameters including the yield, its height-of-burst, asymmetries in the
earth's atmosphere, and location of the burst relative to the earth's magnetic declination
directly affects both the shape or coverage area and the strength of the EMP (9:1-1-2-11).
Based on analysis of the various combinations of the preceding parameters there are four
significant types of EMP. The first, surface burst electromagnetic pulse (EMP), occurs
when the nuclear burst explodes on the earth's surface or up to two kilometers above the
surface. The radiated wave is only propagated to a distance of ten to twenty kilometers
from the burst point due to the higher density of the lower atmosphere. Although the area
over which the low-altitude EMP produces a damaging effect is relatively small, it is
significant on the tactical nuclear battlefield (9:1-10-1-11).
The second type, high-altitude EMP (HEMP), is the most significant and, potentially, the
most hazardous to our security. The explosion of a nuclear burst at an altitude greater
than 30 to over 500 kilometers above the earth's surface will produce the above scenario.
Due to the very thin to nonexistent atmosphere at these altitudes, the gamma rays emitted
from the explosion will travel radically outward for long distances. Those gamma rays
traveling toward the earth's atmosphere are stopped by collisions with atmospheric
molecules at altitudes between 20 and 40 kilometers. These collisions generate Compton
recoil electrons which interact with the earth's magnetic field to produce a downward
traveling electromagnetic wave. This high altitude burst will not generate any other
nuclear effect at the earth's surface (9:1-5). However, this type of nuclear explosion also
produces a vast ground coverage. Significant HEMP levels occur at the earth's surface
out to where the line of sight from the burst contacts the earth's surface. Consequently, a
nuclear burst over the central part of the United States at an altitude of 500 kilometers
would produce an EMP field that would incapacitate all communications systems in the
continental United States (9:1-8).
The third type of EMP is source region EMP (SREMP). This is produced by a nuclear
burst within several hundred meters of the earth's surface (the fireball touches the
ground). SREMP is localized three to five kilometers from the burst. The generation of
EMP by a surface blast begins with the gamma rays traveling radically outward from the
burst. This action causes the Compton electrons to move radically outward and leaves
behind immobile positive ions. This produces an electric field and lasts two to three
nanoseconds. The final result is a tremendous surge on current in the air on any
communications equipment and the SREMP renders the equipment useless (9:1-10-13).
The last type of EMP is system generated EMP (SGEMP). SGEMP results from the
interaction of x-rays or gamma rays striking an atom on a metal object. A nuclear blast in
outer space sends gamma rays or x-rays out in all directions. If these rays were to strike
an unprotected satellite or missile traveling above the atmosphere, these rays would
knock out electrons from the atoms of the metal skin. This action would induce an EMP
field that would make the satellite and the missiles useless (9:1-17-1-21 & 5:75-76).
1. Develop SOP's to provide for immediate actions to restore communications.
2. In the absence of electronic communications, messenger and pyrotechnics can be used
3. The keys to the maintenance of effective communications are: planning for outages,
proper maintenance of equipment, austerity and redundancy (10: 3-3-3-4).
4. Use ultra high frequency (UHF) and super high frequency (SHF) communications
equipment in preference to VHF equipment whenever possible (7:4-11).
5. Avoid the use of broadband radios. Radios operating below UHF are particularly
sensitive to EMP (7:4-11).
6. Shut down and protect unneeded and redundant radio systems. This will protect all radios
that are not essential from the possibility of EMP (7:4-11).
7. When possible, use antennas that have small radiating elements. The smaller the radiating
elements, the less susceptible to EMP (7:4-11).
8. Keep cable and wire runs as short as possible. The wire will act as an EMP conductor
9. Keep cable runs as straight as possible--AVOID LOOPS. Loops will pick up more EMP
than straight runs (7:4-12).
10. Keep cables and wire on the ground where practical.
11. Elevating cables and wires will increase the EMP-generated voltages and currents (7:4-
12. Use shielded twisted pair cables where options in use of cable exist. Twisted pair cables
pick up significantly less EMP than unshielded cable (7:4-12).
13. Shielding is effective for EMP. Sensitive communications equipment can be protected
from EMP if properly shielded in metal containers (7:4-12).
14. An effective EMP shield requires that all openings be closed with metal covers (7:4-12).
15. Maintain your EMP shields and shelters. Ensure all doors and access panels are kept
closed (7:4-12).
16. Electrically bond cable entry panels to the metallic shelters and shields (7:4-13).
17. Keep exterior grounds short and of low impedance (7:4-13).
18. Establish good exterior grounds when possible (7:4-13).
19. Use a common ground for equipment. For large communications systems usually found
at regiment and above use a Tree system (7:4-13).
20. Ensure all antenna guy lines are properly insulated (7:4-15).
21. Avoid the use of commercial sources of power. Commercial power systems are very
susceptible to EMP (7:-15).
22. Keep a supply of critical spares (7:4-15).
1. Clarke, George Major, U.S.A. Interview 2 February 1988. Maj. Clarke
formerly served with D.N.A. and D.I.A.
2. Guida, Richard A. Lt. Commander, USNR, "Nuclear Survivability" U.S.
Naval Proceeding, December 1985, pp. 116-121.
3. Rudie, Norman J., Dr. "Electromagnetic Pulse Effects and System
Hardening: Response of a System." Defense Science and Electronics,
June 1986, pp. 31-36.
4. Rudie, Norman J., Dr. "Electromagnetic Pulse Generation and Coupling
to Systems: A New Arena." Defense Science and Electronics, May 1986,
pp. 72-75.
5. Rudie, Norman J., Dr. "Radiation Effects: SGEMP Phenomena." Defense
Science and Electronics, July 1986, pp.75-76.
6. Army Regulation 70-60. "Research, Development, and Acquisition-
Nuclear Survivability of Army Material." Headquarters, Department of
the Army, Washington, D.C. 1 October 1984. pp. 1-G-1.
7. Field Circular (FC)50-15. "Nuclear Weapons Effects Mitigation
Techniques." Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 1 March 1984. pp. 4-9- 4-15.
8. Field Circular (FC)50-16. "Electromagnetic Pulse Mitigation
Techniques." Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 1 February 1984. A-2; 5-4-5-
9. Field Circular (FC)50-17. “A technical Overview to Electromagnetic
Pulse.” Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 1 June 1986. pp. 1-1-1-20;3-1-3-
10. Field Circular (FC)50-20. "Nuclear Considerations for Operations on the
Air and Battlefield." Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 1 February 1984. pp. 3-
11. Field Manual 24-18. "Tactical Single Channel Radio Communications
Techniques." Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C.
30 September 1987. pp. J-1-J-4.
12. Field Manual 100-2-1. "The Soviet Army - Operations and Tactics."
Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. 16 July 1984.
pp. 2-6-2-8.
13. Field Manual 100-2-2. "The Soviet Army - Specialized Warfare and Rear
Area Support." Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C.
16 July 1984. pp. 5-2-5-4.