EMP Threat Not Just a Hollywood Trope

By Richard Sterk, Defense Electronics Analyst, Forecast International.

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Source: US Army

The post-apocalyptic effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) are no longer just a plot device in the latest Hollywood techno-thriller. The threat to the global grid is very real and very serious. EMP threats encompass not only weapons of mass destruction or threats from terrorist groups and criminal organizations, but also natural threats such as a geomagnetic storm on the sun that sends huge solar flares in the direction of Earth.

While it is true that weapons and information systems can technically be hardened for EMP protection, the cost to do so is considered too high in a profit-driven free market society. Needing to be protected against attack are all power grids, water supply pumping stations, data processing and storage systems, and public utilities.

As a global shutdown would constitute a serious disruption in financial markets, efforts focusing on electromagnetic countermeasures will continue to be funded, with nuclear radiation hardening and EMP protection becoming mandatory for all new electronic systems.

Following a series of cyber attacks on both military and commercial power and utility systems, the world is taking a serious look at the vulnerabilities of its basic infrastructure, such as the electrical grid.

An examination of R&D funding that will be allocated in the U.S. over the next 10 years for the development of EMP protection measures shows that it will peak in 2018 and then remain somewhat steady for several years as the next generation of EMP protection begins to be developed.


FI’s eight Electronic Systems Market Intelligence Services cover the full range of defense-related systems and programs in the radar, communications, electro-optical, and electronic warfare markets, presenting a comprehensive market outlook for current equipment as well as new systems being developed as the modern battlefield moves toward a technology-based warfare approach with network-centric capabilities.

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