North Korean Ballistic Missile Test: Worse to Come?

Michaela Bendikova
The Foundry
The Heritage Foundation

“A single nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the United States could create electromagnetic pulse effects, thereby bringing our entire economy to a standstill,” writes Phyllis Schlafly, a lawyer and conservative political analyst, in her most recent op-ed.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles, would destroy most electronic devices within its line of sight.

This month, North Korea demonstrated that it is a step closer to being capable of delivering this potentially devastating blow to the United States. While Pyongyang attempted to disguise the launch as a civilian exercise, the long-range rocket uses the same long-range ballistic missile technology that, when further improved, will allow North Korea to reach the U.S. homeland.

The U.S. remains unprepared for an EMP attack despite the fact that other nations, such as Russia, continue to develop EMP weapons and have delivery systems that can reach the U.S. A ballistic missile remains the most effective means of delivery of a devastating surprise attack. An intercontinental-range ballistic missile can reach the U.S. homeland in about 33 minutes from anywhere in the world. Enemies could deliver an EMP attack with short-range ballistic missiles launched off the U.S. coasts from either surface ships or submarines. The U.S. remains largely unprotected from these threats…

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Update: Understand EMP threat? U.S. enemies do. Anti-ballistic missile defense system ill-prepared for assault

A December 1998 Iranian military journal published an article titled “Electronics to Determine Fate of Future Wars,” and it detailed how an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack on the electronic infrastructure of the United States caused by the detonation of a nuclear bomb over the U.S. would be crippling.

“Once you confuse the enemy communication network you can also disrupt the work of the enemy command- and decision-making center,” the journal said. “Even worse today when you disable a country’s military high command through disruption of communications, you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that country.

“If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults then they will disintegrate within a few years,” the Iranian journal added. “American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.”…

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