On Monday, NBC Nightly News broadcast a report claiming that White House officials had discussed using an experimental weapon to disrupt or disable a North Korean missile launch. The weapon in question, the product of the US Air Force’s Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), uses bursts of microwave energy to disable electronic devices such as computers, communications and air defense radar systems.
Officials from Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) suggested CHAMP could be fully weaponized in a matter of weeks. But almost as a footnote, the NBC report noted that the weapon would have to pass very close to an ICBM before launch to affect it—which, despite CHAMP’s classification as a non-lethal weapon, might be considered an act of war.
The Air Force has conducted tests of CHAMP, a system designed to selectively beam high-energy microwaves to cause damage to electronic systems. AFRL, Raytheon, and Boeing’s Phantom Works development team tested the CHAMP concept aboard a Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM) in 2012 at a Utah test range. In the 2012 test, pulses from the CHAMP cruise missile disabled computers and even the video cameras monitoring them as the missile flew over them.