Russia

The Russian Federation’s Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

The United States and NATO allies regularly experience from Russia major cyber-attacks penetrating government agencies and critical infrastructures for electric power, telecommunications, transportation and other sectors vital to electronic civilization. These events practice a new way of warfare, including EMP attacks, that could blackout North America and NATO Europe, and win World War III at the speed of light.

Any nuclear weapon detonated in outer space, 30 kilometers or higher, will generate a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) damaging all kinds of electronics, blacking-out electric grids and collapsing other life-sustaining critical infrastructures. No blast, thermal, fallout or effects other than HEMP are experienced in the atmosphere and on the ground.

Russian military doctrine, because HEMP attacks electronics, categorizes nuclear HEMP attack as a dimension of Information Warfare, Electronic Warfare and Cyber Warfare, which are modes of warfare operating within the electromagnetic spectrum.

Russia has “Super-EMP” weapons specialized for HEMP attack that potentially generate 100,000 volts/meter or higher, greatly exceeding the U.S. military hardening standard (50,000 volts/meter).

As a result of its HEMP nuclear tests, the Soviet Union, and today Russia, probably knows a lot more about HEMP effects than the United States.

“Super-EMP is a…first-strike weapon,” according to Aleksey Vaschenko, who describes Russian nuclear weapons specially designed to make extraordinarily powerful HEMP fields as Russia’s means for defeating the United States.

Hypersonic vehicles are potentially a new avenue for surprise HEMP attack, flying at 50-100 kilometers altitude: the optimum height-of-burst for Super-EMP warheads.
Russia has the technical capability to clandestinely orbit a nuclear-armed satellite or satellites to be maintained in orbit for years until needed to make a surprise HEMP attack.

HEMP attack could achieve for Russia a key objective the USSR could not achieve during the Cold War—neutralizing U.S. ballistic missile submarines at sea.

Russia probably remains the world’s leader in Non-Nuclear EMP (NNEMP) weapons, also called Radio-Frequency Weapons (RFWs). Marriage of NNEMP to drones or cruise missiles, equipped with sensors to follow high-power electric lines and target control centers and transformers, introduces a major new threat to national power grids.

As Russia categorizes HEMP attack as Information, Electronic or Cyber Warfare, Moscow’s already very loose strictures for nuclear employment may not even apply to HEMP.

About the author

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

Executive Director - EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security

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