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COTS electromagnetic weapons from simple dual-use items

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COTS (commercial off the shelf) microwave weapons are tracking along with military systems and I find it astonishing that they do not get more serious attention for both infrastructure attacks and for "screen attacks" to a more traditional payload process. Having following David Schriner's work in directed energy since his testimony to the Joint Economic Committee in late 1998 when he spoke about broadband Transient Electromagnetic Devices (TED) which he exected to be the "RF weapon of choice to the modern cyber or infrastructure RF warrior" -- remember this is 1998.

In comparison to Narrowband (NB) devices, TEDs are "relatively simple devices that generally use simple spark-gap switches, [whose] power supplies are relatively small in size and much lower in average power and cost [in which the] engineering and mechanical issues are small, [the technology] well described [and] most of the technology required is available and is an outcrop of the various nuclear and flash x-ray work done in the past." Simple TEDs "would be about $500 and take one week to build."

Schriner later built a frequency pulse emitter in 2001 for his Volkswagen which could "disrupt or kill computers and microprocessors that run financial and communications networks, electric power grids, even car engines and traffic lights." Schriner mused that "driving the VW van around Wall Street in Manhattan, emitting radiation that would disrupt thousands of computers critical to the nation's stock market and financial and communications networks… could have been pretty exciting." Schriner has "subjected cars, radios, medical intravenous pumps, computers, and other equipment to their homemade, portable gadgetry [and has] disrupted and destroyed them."

Schriner described "four basic configurations:

  • Briefcase size "that could be placed very close to a target system (like a computer at a desk or counter)"
  • Mountable in a small van and disguised to appear as ordinary
  • Dedicated unit set up "at a remote target location and used for some purpose where appearance was not of any concern"
  • System "located in one's back yard such that it could be aimed at over flying aircraft"

It's only gotten easier since. An admirer of Schriner, Slava Persion -- as a 20-year old -- used to host Voltage Labs devoted to COTS component electromagnetic weapons such as a directional, tuneable waveguide HERF (High Energy Radio Frequency) and a railgun, complete with reasonable schematics, descriptions, and videos, but has since taken it down. However, you can see one of his simple devices harvested from a kitchen microwave unit here which also tracks with one of the devices here.

Not to be confused with electronic warfare systems which jam or spoof an enemy system when it is operating, requiring specific knowledge of the target in order to do so, microwave weapons are remarkable as they:

  • Do not rely on exact knowledge of the enemy system
  • Can leave persisting and lasting effects in the enemy targets through damage and destruction of circuits, components, and subsystems
  • Will affect enemy systems even when they are turned off
  • Force the enemy to harden the entire system, not just individual components to counter its effects

These units are well suited for covert military operations, down to handheld size, as well as regional-scale impact:

  • Numerous entry points
  • "Dial a hurt" scalable effects
  • Adjustable lethality
  • Tedious target repair
  • Wide footprint area weapon
  • Weather independent
  • Great speed and long reach
  • Easy logistics ("deep magazine" with no "expendables")
  • Collateral damage control

Perfect tools for the asymmetrical warrior, and devastating to US commercial and military installations, the latter of which had given up much of its hardening in the mistaken assumption that EMP (Electrometric Pulse) threats declined with the fall of the Soviet Union. E-bombs (non-nuclear EMP) now come in many packages.

Targeting the Human with Directed Energy Weapons
Dr. Reinhard Munzert
6 Sept. 2002

Everyday materials used in radio weapon
Source: UPI
Publication date: 2001-04-26

High Power Microwaves: Strategic and Operational Implications for Warfare
Occasional Paper No. 11 Center for Strategy and Technology Air War College
Eileen M. Walling, Colonel, UASF
May 2000

The Design and Fabrication of a Damage Inflicting RF Weapon by 'Back Yard' Methods
Statement of Mr. David Schriner before the Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress, Wednesday, February 25, 1998

Gordon Housworth



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