Defence Secretary Warns Of EMP Weapons Threat

Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond will urge the government to invest into military protection against Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons at a conference in London today.

According to Hammond, UK’s electronic infrastructure is vulnerable to the possible use of specially developed EMP weapon, which produce a surge of electromagnetic radiation, similar to that which might come from solar activity, or from a nuclear explosion high above the earth. The response to these weapons has to go beyond conventional military means, Hammond will tell the third Electric Infrastructure and Security Council (EIS) Summit

The E-bomb

EMP can appear in the event of extreme Space Weather, as well as a result of a nuclear explosion high above the earth, or a specifically-developed, non-nuclear weapon.

Last month, the government published a response to the Defence Committee’s report on the developing threat of EMP. It stated that both natural and man-made EMP poses “known and significant” risks to the UK infrastructure, including National Grid and satellite networks.

Now Hammond has said that the response must go beyond conventional technology,  according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

If EMP is weaponised, the so-called “E-bomb” could generate surges in voltage and current inside electronic equipment, burning out microchips and circuitry. The possibility of a natural disaster such as the 1859 Carrington Event will also be discussed at the conference.

“One of the challenges we face, particularly at a time of limited resources, is to make the case for spending on defence and security solutions that cannot readily be seen by the public – that cannot be shown off on the parade ground – that could be digital, not necessarily physical,” says the text of Hammond’s speech.

Avi Schnurr, the chief executive officer of the US Electric Infrastructure and Security Council (EIS) and a White House adviser on the issue, told The Telegraph: “We are beginning to realise that, unfortunately, all our societal eggs are in one fragile electric basket, and we are not sufficiently protecting ourselves.”

“We have become potential victims of our own technical advancement. The evolution of national electric grids and key infrastructure components means that we are more vulnerable to EMP than ever before,” he added.

Microprocessors are delicate creatures, aren’t they? Take our quiz!

Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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