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Boeing Successfully Tests Electronics-Frying, Microwave Missile

It's not the sexiest of weapons, because it doesn't cause big explosions, or fly around the world in minutes. But the effect is huge and could cripple a modern military without causing any casualties.

This week, Boeing announced that it has successfully tested a missile that can send out targeted, high-power microwaves that fry electronics without actually causing an explosion.

The defense contractor said they tested CHAMP — or Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project — in the western Utah desert along with members from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate.

A video released by the company shows a room full of computers. When CHAMP flies above it, the computer screens go black. Boeing said the missile took out the electronics of a two-story building. It was so effective that it even blacked out some of the cameras set up to record the event.

"Today we turned science fiction into science fact," Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager, said in a press release.

The weapon is still in the testing stage.

You may also be wondering, if this kind of thing has been done before. The idea of an electromagnetic bomb isn't novel. In fact, such a thing could be accomplished by detonating a nuclear bomb high above a city, for example.

Back in 2009, Wired wrote about one conference that focused on the potential effects of an EMP bomb. Wired noted that the effect of electromagnetic pulses were first observed "after the 1962 Starfish Prime nuclear test, which knocked out satellites and electronics."

The big difference between this missile and an E-bomb is that CHAMP is targeted, whereas a bomb would disable a radius, causing widespread damage.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.