Quick Fixes to Counter the Existential EMP Threat by Ambassador Henry F. Cooper

by Kevin D. Freeman on July 29, 2014

The following was written by Ambassador Henry Cooper and we share it with permission.

July 29, 2014—Quick Fixes to Counter the Existential EMP Threat!


Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder

High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . . Reagan’s Vision Lives!

E-Mail Message 140729

Quick Fixes to Counter the Existential EMP Threat!

By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper

July 29, 2014

We remain vulnerable to the existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat that is posed by rogue states and jihadi terrorists. Time’s awasting, but we have relatively inexpensive ways to counter this threat beginning immediately if only the “powers that be” wake up and take the needed actions. Click here for Johnny Cash and June Carter and 2 minutes of “Times A Wastin.”

Click here for former CIA Director R. James Woolsey’s July 23rd written testimony, which warned the House Armed Services Committee that

“There is now an increasing likelihood that rogue nations such as North Korea (and before long, most likely, Iran) will soon match Russia and China in that they will have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as SCUDs that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space launch vehicles able to launch low- earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs. In 2004, the Russians told us that their “brain drain” had been helping the North Koreans develop EMP weapons.

As Woolsey and others have concluded“We must change our policy to assess these threats and deploy defenses against them.”  

Hear, hear!

As discussed below, we have relatively inexpensive near-term options to counter this existential threat, if we but choose to do so.


Iran and North Korea are collaborators—Iranians for years have been present at North Korean underground nuclear tests and ballistic missile and satellite launches. And we knew long before 2004 that Russia had this EMP threat capability and was contributing to its proliferation, including to China, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. We should presume that they, and others—including jihadi terrorists, understand the possibilities.

Many who have argued that the terrorist threat has been reduced now acknowledge current Middle East and East Asia instabilities are worse than ever. Most importantly, they acknowledge that American citizens are involved in jihadi activities such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—considered to be more extreme than al Qaeda. ISIS has taken over major sections of Iraq and Syria, and is seeking to establish a Caliphate throughout the entire region.  They can be expected to join forces with others, eventually to bring the jihadi threat to America—including with nuclear weapons if they can obtain them. More in future message.

Click here for an informative 2011 Heritage Foundation conference on EMP—especially the keynote address by former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who relates the discussions he and several other congressmen had in the late 1990s with former Soviet military officers who discussed their Cold War plans to employ an EMP attack on the U.S.—this discussion in part led him and others to charter the EMP Commission which reported its classified findings in 2004, backing up its unclassified executive summary, and in open source form in 2008. Click here for these important authoritative reports.

Mr. Bartlett introduced legislation three congresses ago to assure that our electric power grid is hardened against EMP—and it and subsequent similar proposed legislation have been blocked now for five years—the current version is bottled up by the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And the alarming threat continues to grow—and is now imminent as Woolsey testified.

There is wide awareness of the threat of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack by North Korea and Iran, but based on our current plans apparently not of other important threats that they pose. For example, both North Korea and Iran have launched satellites—notably to their south so that they orbit over the United States from south to north—capable of carrying a Super-EMP device over the United States at an altitude that would expose the entire continent to EMP.  And Iran long ago launched a ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea and appeared to practice a high-altitude detonation—like that of an EMP attack.

Our ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems are postured to defend the U.S. Homeland against threats that approach us from the north, but North Korea and Iran satellites like those previously launched could pose this existential EMP threat from the south—we have “left the back door open.”

Thus, we should wake up to “this open back door” and shut it while also improving our defenses against attacks from the north—the current focus of efforts to locate an additional east coast BMD site to defend against Iranian ICBMs.

Also, we need to rectify our current vulnerability to short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that could be launched in an EMP attack from vessels off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico where we have no current defense. (Our Aegis BMD ships operating near our coasts can shoot down such an attack if their crews are trained and ready to do so—but they do not operate in the Gulf.)

We have no time to waste—we should deploy improved defenses as quickly as possible, to reduce or end our current vulnerability, as the case may be.

Happily, we have already developed, ready options to do so—particularly by adapting our sea-based Aegis BMD ships (30 at sea today, growing to 35 by 2015) and the Aegis Ashore  BMD system we are deploying in Romania and Poland.  Click here to view a 2-hour video of the June 26th Capitol Hill Independent Working Group (IWG) conference on the current status and plans for the Aegis BMD system. Click here for my previous discussion of this important conference.

Consider the possibilities for using Aegis BMD as a “quick fix” to the threats.

Defense against Threats from the North.

The Pentagon is focused on deploying a ground based missile defense (GMD) site, like those in Alaska and California, somewhere in the northeastern U.S. to help defend against Iranian ICBMs.  It will take time—years—to conduct the Environmental Impact Studies and to develop and deploy an improved interceptor capability. While this acquisition effort proceeds, there is a way to improve the defense of the eastern seaboard against Iranian ICBMs almost immediately, requiring no development, as illustrated below. 



With already-being-produced TPY-2 radars deployed in Maine and North Carolina (white dots), the current-fully-funded plans for already-deployed Block IA and IB Aegis Standard Missile-3  (SM-3) interceptors can provide defensive coverage of the eastern seaboard as indicated in the left-hand figure—from ships operating or in port along the east coast. My understanding is that on a day in 2012 chosen at random there were 4-6 ships either in transit or in port along the east coast.  So, all that is required, once the TPY-2 radars are in place, is operationally prepared crews on these ships.  This should not be a challenge because all of the testing of the Aegis BMD system has been conducted by operational crews—and their impressive track record is 28 successful intercepts out of 34 attempts.

It should be understood that the Block IA interceptor in 2008 was used to shoot down the exact same target intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) that was successfully intercepted a few weeks ago by the GMD system on its third try. The Block IA was also used in 2008 to intercept a dying satellite that threatened to spread its toxic fuel over populated areas—and this target was flying faster than an ICBM. If that shoot-down is counted then the Aegis test record is 29 intercepts out of 35 attempts. 

The Block IB has the same velocity characteristics as the Block IA, but with an improved sensor suite that adds discrimination capability.  With the cuing from two TPY-2 radars, either could defend the densely populated eastern seaboard coastal region

The faster Block IIA, with coverage illustrated in the middle figure above, is in funded development for operational deployment by 2018 at an Aegis Ashore site in Poland—Block IIA interceptors might be available sooner for ships along the east coast. In this casewith a single TPY-2 radar in Maine, the defense footprint would extend to the Mississippi River. 

Click here for Raytheon’s discussion of its Standard Missile programs already funded and programmed for deployment in the Obama administration’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA)—including additional details on the Block IA, IB and IIA interceptors.  These programs, which provide the basis for defending Europe against Iranian ballistic missiles, also provide the basis for defending the United States east of the Mississippi River against Iranian ICBMs as suggested by the left two charts above—our sailors just need to train and operate to do so.

A SM-3 interceptor with a 30-percient greater burnout velocity than the Block IIA would produce the footprint in the right hand chart—extending defensive coverage against Iranian ICBMs to the entire continental U.S.   This should be an achievable goal for developing an advanced light-weight kill vehicle—a good advanced technology insertion project for the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), if not the Missile Defense Agency, to seek a workable product within three years

This progression of capability will also provide a capability, supplementing that of our Alaskan GMD site, to shoot down satellites carrying nuclear weapons over the north polar region, to implement an EMP attack. 

Defense against Threats from the South.

 As previously discussed (Click here.), Aegis BMD ships can use their SM-2 Block IV air defense interceptors to shoot down satellite launches during their boost phase, provided the ships can get close enough to the launch sites—which is feasible for satellite launch sites used previously by North Korea and Iran to launch their satellites over the south polar region. 

Other Aegis BMD ships operating in the Pacific also may have a shot at North Korean and Iranian on-orbit satellites headed over the south polar region provided they have sufficient cueing from upstream sensors and needed authorization to conduct the intercept.  (For example, a TPY-2 radar in the Philippines could provide this “upstream cuing” capability.) And the Aegis BMD radar systems can provide cuing and tracking information to help enable the Vandenberg AFB, California GMD system to shoot down satellites before they arrive over the U.S. from over the south polar regions—again provided appropriate authorization is provided.

The key problem needing to be solved is to pre-authorize the Captain on Aegis BMD ships to shoot down such satellites immediately; there is insufficient time for consultation with others before the satellite is in orbit and can outrun the SM-3 interceptors then in a tail chase. 

Thus, we proposed a companion diplomatic approach to assure this timeline can be met—namely that we announce we will shoot down any satellite launched without a pre-launch inspection to assure the payload contains no nuclear warhead.  This can be accomplished unintrusively, by employing the negotiated verification procedures used to verify the U.S.-Soviet/Russian INF and START Treaties.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could perform this function. 

Defense against Off-Shore Threats.

As noted by former CIA Director Woolsey, there is the existential EMP threat posed by rogue states and their surrogates—even jihadi terrorists, if they mate a nuclear weapon to even short or medium range ballistic missiles and launch them to high altitude over the U.S. where it is detonated.

Our at-sea Aegis BMD system provides a tested capability to counter this threat if an Aegis BMD ship is near the vessel launching the threat EMP attack and its crew is prepared to intercept the threatening launch before it can detonate the nuclear weapon. We usually have such ships near our east and west coasts, so the only issue is to be sure that their crews are appropriately trained to conduct this defensive measure.

However, our Aegis ships do not usually transit the Gulf of Mexico—so we are vulnerable to threats from rogue or terrorist vessels in the Gulf—or from central America. Thus, we need an effective counter to this threat—and one can be derived from the above discussed Aegis BMD funded program.   

We have no time to waste in doing so.  In June 2013, we perhaps saw a dry run of such a threat scenario when the Panamanians discovered that a North Korean freighter on its way through the Panama Canal was carrying two SA-2 missiles buried under its cargo.  There were no nuclear weapons mated to these nuclear-capable missiles—but it does not take much imagination to consider that they could potentially have posed a threat from the Gulf. (At the same time, a North Korean satellite, which also was capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, was in orbit passing south-to-north over the U.S.)

The most straight forward counter to the threat from vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and Central America is to deploy on military bases around the Gulf of Mexico the same Aegis Ashore system as we are building in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018).  If we can afford to defend our allies, we can certainly afford to defend the American people against this existential EMP threat. There would be no development cost for building these sites—except for site preparation, because the Aegis Ashore system development is already funded. 

The Aegis Ashore configuration (requiring about a football field for siting) and several possible sites around the Gulf of Mexico are suggested below.  For the current Block IA and IB interceptors, four sites may be needed—for the higher velocity Block IIA, perhaps fewer would be required.


And Harden the Electric Power Grid!

No defense is perfect.  Thus, a minimum essential subset of the U.S. electric pow­er grid should be hardened to EMP effects, to assure that the nation’s critical infrastructure can be rapidly reconstituted following a successful nuclear EMP attack, should the defense fail. If hardened to EMP effects, the grid will also be hardened to a natural EMP event associated with a major solar storm—the converse is not true. 

Hardening the grid against solar storms does not assure hardening against an EMP attack. Solar storms and high-altitude nuclear events both can create lethal long-wavelength EMP effects, but major solar storms do not produce short wavelength EMP effects that also can collapse the grid.  

The nation’s survival can depend upon hardening of the electricity power grid to both natural and manmade EMP effects.

Any strategy seeking to counter both natural and man-made EMP threats must include hardening electricity infrastructure and a robust mis­sile defense against an EMP attack.

Near Term High Frontier Plans.

We are renewing our efforts to inform the state and local authorities—and publics—in states around the Gulf of Mexico of the important role their states can play in defending all Americans against the existential EMP threat.

Given the lethargy in Washington, we will continue informing all who will listen about the existential EMP threat and expanding our work with the National Guard to help them gain knowledge and workable plans to help harden the electric power grid and counter the EMP threat. This work will go hand in hand with efforts of State legislators who are seeking to expand on the excellent work of those in Maine and Virginia, who have passed legislation requiring serious studies of the EMP threat and the needed countermeasures to protect the electric power grid.

The most recent bill passed in record time without a single negative vote in Virginia can be used as a ready pattern.

We are working with South Carolina National Guard to develop scenarios for tabletop exercises to help them understand how best to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to understand and respond to this serious threat. We will also support similar activities in neighboring and other states.

We are informing SC state legislators and senators about the threat and what can be done to deal with it—hopefully they will follow Maine and Virginia in seeking to harden the electric power grid. We also expect support from Cong. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) whose district includes my SC farm—and who is a member of the Congressional EMP Caucus seeking passage of the Shield Act and the Infrastructure Protection Act, as well as other SC representatives.

We will be working with members of the EMP Coalition and others who are seeking to take our message across the country—especially with Bob Newman, a former Adjutant General of Virginia, to help us link our SC plans more broadly and especially into Virginia and the National Capital region.

What can you do?

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

And support us with your tax deductible gifts to help enable our continuing efforts.


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