AIR FORCE STUDY ON EMP THREAT
U.S. military facilities involved in command and control of forces face a growing risk of disruption by an electromagnetic pulse attack or solar superstorm that could knock out all electronics at the strategic bases, according to a report.
The report by the Air Force Electromagnetic Defense Task Force, made up of civilian and military experts, also warns that EMP or geomagnetic disturbances could cause catastrophic damage and the loss of life in the United States.
“Multiple adversaries are capable of executing a strategic attack that may black out major portions of a state’s grid,” the report said. “An EMP attack affects all devices with solid-state electronics and could render inoperative the main grid and backup power systems, such as on-site generators.”
With heavy reliance on electronics, American society is not prepared to deal with the effects of either a nuclear weapon-caused EMP or a large solar flare that could disrupt critical electric-powered functions for months or years, the report says.
One of the key threats facing the military outlined in the report involves potential EMP attacks on command and control systems used to communicate with and direct military forces.
The report noted that flooding in 2017 at a military base incapacitated a major military command and control facility. Military mission operations were negatively affected for several days while repairs were made.
The report said America’s adversaries recognize that U.S. command and control systems are major targets in a conflict. They know that if the military’s ability to communicate is disrupted, then military effectiveness will be severely limited.
“In terms of strategy, from an adversary’s standpoint, military installations represent the vulnerable underbelly of the defense enterprise,” the report said. “In particular, if deliberate or natural EMS phenomena affect an installation’s command post, the capabilities of associated forces may be degraded or stopped.”
The report warned that under the right conditions “an adversary could impact the communications systems of most U.S. military installations simultaneously.”
The commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, warned in 2017 that the United States is ill-prepared to deal with threats posed by an EMP attack.
“EMP is a realistic threat, and it’s a credible threat.” Gen. Hyten said.
The Strategic Command, which commands nuclear forces, is capable of continuing most operations after an EMP attack or solar superstorm beyond seven days. However, the command’s reliance on systems that are not hardened against EMP could rapidly restrict nuclear forces. An example is aerial refueling needed to support the National Airborne Operations Center and other command and control systems could be degraded.
The report included a chart showing that the Air Force is preparing to deal with an EMP attack from a nuclear weapon detonated miles above the United States, an explosion that would cause a catastrophic power outage affecting an estimated 318 million people for 30 days.
By contrast, the Air Force sees a kinetic attack on the power grid as causing a catastrophic power outage that would affect 10 million people for two weeks, while taking three to six months to replace electrical equipment.
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