A recently declassified report indicates that at least four U.S. adversaries are developing capabilities to carry out an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.
Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have been developing EMP weapon capabilities over the last decade to carry out attacks against the U.S., which would cause widespread blackouts and devastation across the nation, The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.
“Nuclear EMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans, and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage, and EMP,” the report said.
The report was published recently by the congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. It used information gathered up until June 2017 and was authored by William R. Graham, chairman of the commission and a recognized top expert on the subject.
“The United States critical national infrastructure faces a present and continuing existential threat from combined-arms warfare, including cyber and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, and natural EMP from a solar superstorm,” the report said.
An EMP can come from solar storms or nuclear blasts, either of which are capable of affecting electrical grids and devices by disabling or destroying them.
“Within the last decade, newly nuclear-armed adversaries, including North Korea, have been developing the ability and threatening to carry out an EMP attack against the U.S.,” the report said.
Two North Korean satellites launched in 2012 and 2016 currently orbit over the U.S. and travel in patterns “consistent with practice or preparation for a surprise nuclear EMP attack,” the report noted.
South Korea’s spy agency, The National Intelligence Service, said in 2013 that North Korea bought EMP technology from Russia to develop their own EMP weapons, The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time.
The report noted that both Russia and China are further progressed in their EMP weapon plans, which entail the EMP’s use in conjunction with nuclear and other non-nuclear weapons. Chinese military reports from 2016 discussed EMP weapons, while Russian and Iranian military reports over the past decade have discussed the U.S. vulnerabilities to EMP attacks.
However, the EMP on its own is enough for devastating consequences.
“Such an attack would give countries that have only a small number of nuclear weapons the ability to cause widespread, long-lasting damage to U.S. critical national infrastructures, to the United States itself as a viable country, and to the survival of a majority of its population,” the report continued.
The report also notes weaknesses in the U.S. electric grid, making is susceptible to natural and nuclear EMP incidents. Additionally, it calls on the Department of Defense to pursue its own EMP weapons development, and incorporate EMP strikes in its nuclear attack plans.
“Potential adversaries understand that millions could die from the long-term collateral effects of EMP and cyber-attacks that cause protracted black-out of national electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures,” the report stated.
The report called out the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp., among other entities, for inadequately addressing dangers from EMP events. It further called out the private electrical industry for lacking a focus on how EMP affects transformers and electrical grids.