On October 16, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force made history when they successfully test-launched a new missile with the capability of remotely disrupting or disabling an enemy’s electronics while inflicting little or no collateral damage.
The weapon, developed under the Counter-Electronics High-Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), never actually impacts an enemy target. Instead, it flies over a target, using controlled microwaves to disable its electronic functioning. This non-lethal method effectively eliminates collateral damage. More tests for this highly anticipated new weapon are supposed to take place later this year.
While CHAMP has the potential to alter how wars are fought, it is unlikely that it would replace conventional weapons. This new development, however, raises the question of whether enemies of the United States can also develop the same or similar technology.
There are nations—Russia, China, and Iran, for example—that have considered developing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or similar weapons for possible use against the United States and its allies. These nations may already have the technology to develop these weapons, and they have shown that they are willing to invest the resources to do so. As the U.S. is more dependent on electronics than any other nation in the world, it is essential that the country hardens its systems against these weapons.
Sadly, the defense budget reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 might prevent CHAMP from ever reaching the battlefield. Sequestration will cut $492 billion from defense spending on top of the $500 billion that has already been cut. Sequestration is currently on pace to take effect on January 2, 2013, unless Congress and the President change the law.
Such cuts would be devastating for the U.S. military. Many of the Navy’s ships are in need of repair already, the Army will not be able to properly train its forces, and the Air Force will not be able to overhaul its geriatric fleet. Perhaps most importantly, the U.S. will not have the resources it needs to harden its systems against EMP or similar attacks.
Congress and the President should overturn sequestration before more damage is inflicted. The U.S. military should be provided with the best tools to fight enemies at the present and in the future. The CHAMP missile might be one such tool.
Nick Baranishyn is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.