By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
July 22, 2011
DefenseReview (DR) started covering the ballistic threats to U.S. aircraft carriers several years ago. We’ve known for some time, now, that China is capable of sinking our carriers through the use of anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, or a combination of both. Fast forward to yesterday, when the Washington Times published a piece on Chinese military “electromagnetic pulse weapons”, or “EMP weapons” that are currently under development, and that can potentially be used to disable U.S. aircraft carriers in a future conflict, including, for example, China’s desired retaking of Taiwan.
According to National Ground Intelligence Center study on the issue, China is apparently also working on high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons, and the EMP/HPM weapons double-whammy directed energy weapon (DEW) combo is part of China’s “trump card” or “assassin’s mace” weapons arsenal, which are designed to level the technological playing field against the the U.S. military. There’s actually a declassified intelligence report on the bio-effects of Chinese EMP and HPM weapons and plans for their use that was obtained by the private National Security Archive. “For use against Taiwan, China could detonate at a much lower altitude (30 to 40 kilometers) … to confine the EMP effects to Taiwan and its immediate vicinity and minimize damage to electronics on the mainland,” the 2005 report said. The report went on to say that any low-yield strategic nuclear warhead (or tactical nuclear warheads) could be used with similar efficacy, and that the Chinese DF-21D medium-range anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), which Defense Review has already reported on, can be used as an EMP weapons platform in an attack on Taiwan. The National Security Archive is currently also running their own story on that de-classified report.
Electromagnetic pulse weapons mimic the nuclear gamma ray pulse of a nuclear blast/explosion, and are capable of knocking out all electronics-dependent devices, including computers, ground vehicles and aircraft, within the effective range of the weapon.
The Washington Times reports that “according to the report, China conducted EMP tests on mice, rats, rabbits, dogs and monkeys that produced eye, brain, bone marrow and other organ injuries. It stated that ‘it is clear the real purpose of the Chinese medical experiments is to learn the potential human effects of exposure to powerful EMP and [high-powered microwave] radiation.'” This information is obviously important, as it could be used to help the Chinese military to prevent the use of EMP weapons in an attack on Taiwan from pushing the United States accross the nuclear response threshold, i.e., starting a nuclear war with the United States.
China could potentially use EMP and HPM weapons in two different ways: 1) as surprise measure against U.S. naval assets after an initial conventional-weapons strike on the island (Taiwan) has lured them into effective range, and 2) as a bluff measure to dissuade the U.S. from defending Taiwan with a carrier battle group/CVBG.
The bottom line is that if/when China decides to take back Taiwan through military force, the U.S. military will most likely not be able to keep that from happening. Right now, the U.S. is probably stretched too thin militarily and are too weak financially to effectively defend Taiwan.