Question about this e-bomb

I don’t want to wedge this into any of the numerous Iraq-related threads, especially since most of them are in GD and in the Pit. I myself am neutral on the issue of whether or not we should go to war with Iraq. I’m just wondering about what will happen if we do.

I’ve heard about this thing called an e-bomb, which emits a pulse strong enough to permanently disable every electrical system within a very wide radius. Apparently GWB wants this to be our first strike, making the Iraqis sitting ducks for our troops in the ensuing chaos.

But would it really work that way? How much do they depend on their electricity? And would we really have the advantage when we moved in? I mean, these guys are desert fighters. They’re prepared to defend from caves, radios or no radios. How many Gulf War vets will be returning for this action? And don’t we already have our best (for MidEast action, I mean) deployed in Afghanistan?

Rilchy, are you referring to a magnetic pulse attack?

I’ve heard of these before and although I have no idea how effective it would be, the idea is that a sufficiently large magnetic pulse would disable everything electronic/electric… so stuff like SAM targeting systems, portable radios, wristwatches, laptop computers… everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that uses electronics/electrics to work… would basically be screwed.

If nothing else, it would totally screw their communication, which in itself could be of sufficient value to bring about a quick victory for the yanks.


So you’re saying that they do have a lot of heavy-duty military electronics? If so, yes, that would be a good idea.


Yes, I know that’s always good. I’d just never heard of it being done on a grand scale.

Really-dumb-I-never-said-I-was-a-rocket-surgeon-question: But this magnetic pulse won’t continue, will it? I mean, our troops will go in and their equipment will still work, right?

Right. EMP is an it’s-over-in-less-than-a-millisecond phenomenon. Think of it as an evil photoflash.

Rilch, it’ll scramble every piece of electronics in the blast radious. This means phones won’t work, cars won’t run, and damn near everything else will come to a screeching halt. Most of the folks won’t hear a thing, they’ll just know that they’re suddenly back in the Middle Ages. Other than small arms fire, and weapons which might have been out of range of the blast, our troops should have an “easy” time of it. There’s been at least one other thread on this subject, but it’s probably a year or so old.

No, no: I got that part! I was just asking how much technology they have to lose.

Right, right. So I can see where I went wrong. Being an American, I naturally think of crippling blasts of anything as something you do to cities, so I was picturing Baghdad as ground zero. Now I understand (or hope I do!) that this would actually happen in the desert where a lot of Iraqi troops are spread out. So yes, that would pretty much kneecap them.

Another-question-since-I’ve-got-you-all-here: So how is this thing…administered, so to speak? I mean, again, I think of a “bomb” as something that is “dropped” from a plane…Rather than speculate, I’ll just ask: How will it be possible to trigger this pulse without putting the person/people assigned to the task in danger due to their equipment being disabled?

Our stuff is somewhat hardened against the effects of an EMP blast, and the device could be hooked up to a timer so that instead of blowing up the moment it hits the ground, it waits around long enough for the delivering aircraft to get out of range. Here’s a Popular Mechanics article discussing them. Another Popular Mechanics article which states that they can be delivered by a cruise missile.

As for what the Iraqi’s would lose, that’s a toughie. Some of their military hardware is Soviet in origin, which could mean that it’s tube based, and therefore immune to EMP effects. However, some of their military hardware is more modern, so they’d lose that. Generally, however, they’d be in a bad way (not that conditions in that country are all that great anyway).

Why can’t you have modern electronic equipment that uses tubes in vital areas? The effects of EMP on solid state electronics has been known about for years. That’s part of the reason why the declining art of tube manufacture hasn’t died out completely - no to mention the fascination and awe tubes inspire in guitarists and audiophiles…

Tubes are expensive, fragile and huge, NOT something especially desirable in a military situation.

The reason that we switched from tubes to solid state electronics is that solid state electronics are smaller, lighter, and use less juice than tubes. One can harden electronics against EMP blasts. Military equipment and spacecraft are typically hardened against such things. However, it’s impossible to harden against all possible blasts, so if the US does use this bomb, it’ll be a bad day for the Iraqis.

I’m not an EE, but I don’t think this is literally true. If there is a circuit, then you could introduce such a strong electro-magentic (radio) pulse that you induced such a strong electic current that it fried some part of the circuit.

Now, tube systems may have conductors that are way more hardy than microchip systems, and that may put them out of reach of actually burning them up with anything we might reasonably build, but you could do it if you really tried, I think.

This is your geeky reply, yes.

Thanks to all who replied!

I can think of very few places that tubes could be used in place of modern electronics. Only the last stages in Audio and maybe some Radio Amplifiers and possibly some power supplies.