The countermeasure to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s obsession of developing nuclear missiles that could hit the United States may lie in an obscure military lab in New Mexico which is known as CHAMP – for Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project.
“The cruise missile with a CHAMP system strapped to it would fly into enemy airspace at low altitude, and send out strong pulses of electromagnetic energy which can jam the enemy’s electronic command-and-control systems,” he added.
The American Air Force says that CHAMP was not specifically developed to counter the North Korean threat. However, Gen (rtd) David Deptula who once headed the US Air Force Intelligence said the applications can be effective against North Korea.
“CHAMP could be a game-changer with North Korea. It would be very useful in the Korean threat because it wouldn’t require the presence of significant numbers of ground forces,” said Col (rtd) Cedric Leighton, who was an Air Force intelligence officer. “It wouldn’t require Special Operations forces. And it wouldn’t require kinetic bombing attacks. … In essence, what could happen is an attack can occur, and not a single person on the enemy side would lose a life.”
Leighton further added that a North Korean missile can be disabled on the launchpad or in flight by a CHAMP system.
The CHAMP system was tested at a range in Utah by the US Air Force in 2012. “Buildings were rigged with communications and other systems similar to what enemy militaries would have,” the Air Force spokesperson added.
Mary Lou Robinson, head of research and development of CHAMP at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said while talking to NBC News: “It absolutely did exactly what we thought it was going to do. We have had several target classes, and we predicted with almost 100% accuracy which systems would fail.”
“The North Koreans would see many of these missiles flying in,” says Jeffrey Lewis, an adjunct professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “They would try to shoot them down. They’re not actually going to know that they’re armed with high-powered microwaves instead of, say, conventional explosives or even nuclear weapons.”
None of the Air Force officials commented on when the weapons could be deployed but Leighton said, in a crisis, the CHAMP system could be deployed within days.