China Reveals “Ace” Weapon
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
In a Chinese article entitled, “Electromagnetic Pulse Bombs Are China’s Ace,” Lou Xiaoqing describes the PLA’s preferred method of disabling the US military, Taiwan and potentially Pacific ally cities.
The Washington Times reported the Chinese were building an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and High-Powered Microwave (HPM) weapons in July of 2011. That article was based on a 2005 declassified annual intelligence report from the Pentagon that suggested Chinese military writings were discussing this possibility of defeating a more advanced enemy through these types of weapon systems. Taiwan and US forces were mentioned as targets then too. They were called their “trump card” or “assassin’s mace” then too; almost exactly the same as the new buzz word, “ace’ they are using now.
Does this mean that they are still attempting to push the boundaries of EMP and HPM technology or that they are trying to channel their inner strategic military dialogue to an already available capability and possibly intimidate US allies and or keep the US guessing?
Such EMP weapons, if the Chinese presently has them, could be defeated by yet another hypothetical and yet unknown, direct energy weapon in the US arsenal, that will trigger the Chinese EMP before it ever leaves ground in an MRBM or ASM; countering the threat with an offensive blow and powering down Chinese cities near the launch site(s). Secondary and tertiary systems could intercept the enemy EMP warhead in more aggressive ways if that failed and as it approached the intended target.
To carry out the first phase simultaneous offense/defense counterstrike maneuver would require an advanced early [EMP] warning system over and around China; and perhaps even local assets in place that could detect the deployment and trigger the necessary response. Intelligence assets would also need to be focused on this as a legitimate threat and cipher information and analyze as needed.
Washington needs nextgen long range sensors of the Star Trek variety to identify hostile weapons and weapon systems not only directed at CBRN but also enhancing electronic forms of warfare and of the cutting edge and unidentifiable. A database and an ability to detect threats in place and track them is a monumental task that would push the boundaries into the new space age of sensors. Think small, passive, rapidly deployable and possibly engineered microbial and local and or globally placed.
Chinese EMP tactics would quickly get wise and offer multiple delivery options: missile, ocean vessel, plane, or even hand delivered. Likely they will want a high-altitude detonation/activation to give them the greatest effect and might be used in combination with other conventional weapons platforms. This makes a missile or bomber an ideal platform. Scratch the bomber. back to missile. Possibly false commercial or cargo airplane or seemingly harmless outfitted marine vessel with missile launch or submarine. The options keep going.
Shielding against an EMP is the attempt to harden electronics from harm, disruption or full destruction. EMPs can be partially overcome but not fully shielded against. Most vulnerable are the non-military systems and cities. New technologies and time have been helpful. Plans to harden US satellites are already underway.
China is not the only state to pursue EMP technology and the proliferation of EMPs will potentially be easier than nuclear weapons. The US is not the only target. This means rogue states with EMPs and already nuclear rogue states like North Korea, for example could have a new bag of tricks for a first non-lethal strike weapon against the South.
The US could encourage Chinese military planning of this kind and continue to remain far in advance of these seemingly increasingly overt designs. The Pentagon might also remind their Eastern neighbors beforehand that they too have EMPs and HPM weapons that can and will be used against mainland China directly if US forces are attacked; and potentially as a retaliatory strike in kind.
Like the US and most other countries, China remains highly vulnerable to EMP attack as well. EMPs would benefit rogue states more as a first strike weapon against neighboring rivals or via IRBM at regional foes than a China unprovoked. The “ace” or “trump card” is not coming out first, most likely but in a committed military engagement.
The US could use better EMP detection and elimination; and also shielding from EMP damage targeted at its civilian infrastructure at home and also because too much of national defense is interconnected with it.