Kinder, Gentler War

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Lights Out: Boeing's CHAMP program is designed to shut down computers and other electronic systems using bursts of microwave energy.

In the Pentagon’s continuing quest to destroy without hurting, Boeing announced this week that its CHAMP microwave-burst weapon successfully rendered electronic targets useless without wounding anyone.

“We turned science fiction into science fact,” Keith Coleman, director of Boeing’s CHAMP program, said in an Oct. 22 statement. CHAMP stands for Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”

On Oct. 16, Boeing (which builds the missile), Raytheon Ktech (which builds the microwave generator) and the Air Force Research Lab’s directed-energy directorate “successfully knocked out” personal computers and other electronic systems during a test at the Utah Test and Training Range.

As the CHAMP missile neared its target, it fired bursts of microwaves that basically fried the electronic innards of computers and other such gear inside a two-story building. Engineers cheered as a video feed showed the targeted screens going black, before CHAMP shut down the video cameras as well.

“CHAMP provides the warfighter a non-lethal, low-collateral damage capability that can be used against targets currently on the kinetic-restricted target list,” the Air Force explained last year (“kinetic-restricted” means targets that can’t be bombed with conventional explosives, out of concern for civilian casualties or other collateral-damage considerations). “CHAMP supports Combatant Commands faced with increasing operational limitations by providing an option to achieve mission needs while keeping collateral damage and post-conflict reconstruction costs to a minimum.”

You bet. No sense in blowing stuff up if the U.S. taxpayer is expected to foot the bill to glue the rubble back together.

Cool video about CHAMP here.

Think of CHAMP as the anti-neutron bomb – it kills things rather than people. For those of you too young to remember the glory years of the Cold War, 30 years ago the goal of the neutron bomb – also known as the enhanced radiation weapon — was to kill people but not things.