Pentagon readies microwave bomb for Baghdad
November 18, 2002 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Pentagon readies microwave bomb for Baghdad There go the blogs in Iraq! Might be worthwhile going to war just to test this new toy, says one cynic, the poster of this link.
posted by Postroad (20 comments total)
Might be worthwhile going to war just to test this new toy

That's disgusting, Postroad. But if you're so concerned about the new "toys" of the military (calling weapons toys are horrific in itself), and have so little consideration of human beings as you claim, why don't you voulenteer to let the military test their toys on yourself? Might be worthwhile.
posted by cx at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2002

I'm sure the military would be heartbroken if there were an "accident" with one of these bombs near the Al-Jazeera studios! Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) bombs are nothing new though and were certainly tried out before! In Gulf War I, the military used the signals given off by computers to target smart bombs, the EMP seems a little less messy way to take out Iraq's technology!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2002

Oh, CX, I think you missed the point, unless someone has a pacemaker or is living in an iron lung, the EMP bomb won't harm them directly, just make their lives rather inconvenient by frying all their electrical equipment (including the starters on vehicles). I suppose you'd just prefer they used high explosives to do the same job? I would prefer they not have to go to war at all, but if they do, then I'd like them to use the methods that are the least deadly, but with maximum effect, such as EMP bombs.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2002

No, Pollomacho (nice monicker! =)), I wouldn't prefer high explosives to less deadly, yet just as effective weapons, if the EMP-bomb indeed would be such a weapon. I object to the idea of going to war just to test new technology.

That out of the way, though, I'm a bit sceptical about the tactical effectiveness of an EMP-bomb. It would criple the civilian media and much of their infrastructure, but since the Iraqi forces are using old Soviet military technology (or copies of it) it is most likely more resilient because of the prevalence of vacuum tube-technology in Soviet electronics. Remember too, that allied armies are relying much more on electronics than the Iraqi does. Thus, if such a weapon are to be deployed it must be dropped in a Enola Gay fashion - with the allied opposition as far the heck away as they possibly can be.

That might not prove significant, but what might prove significant on a strategic level is that if allied forces are trying to upset the Iraqi government it is crucial for any upstart democracy or interrim governmet to communicate effectively with the citizens - especially of Baghdad. And without their transistor radioes or television sets that might prove very difficult indeed.

BTW, "blackout bombs" are already in use by the U.S.
posted by cx at 7:44 AM on November 18, 2002

I wonder if any of this technology is related to Tesla's work.
posted by thomcatspike at 7:49 AM on November 18, 2002

The warhead also produces a disinfectant chlorine gas that further minimises the risk of contamination.

Uhh...don't breathe that in.
posted by angry modem at 7:53 AM on November 18, 2002

Yeah, after I posted that I realized it was the whole concept of bombing for the sake of testing you were referring to, not the bombs themselves, yes that is a little unsettling. There hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of soviet technology built in the las 10 years or so though for some odd reason and 10 years ago we pretty much hammered Iraq's old Soviet equipment. What the Ruskies were mostly using tube tech for was in systems they knew would be vulnerable to EMP, particularly launch systems. Seems like we managed to make a mockery of the Iraqi invasion force with 1991 technology on both sides, now they've still got 1991 tech and were rolling in with some new weirdness, much more shocking that EMP bombs (horrid pun intended, and your connection to Tesla)!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:11 AM on November 18, 2002

Pollomacho: Um... Just what the hell do you think a microwave bomb does, exactly?

no, an EMP bomb won't hurt anyone, but a microwave bomb most certanly will... Think about what would happen to a baby in a microwave oven. Nukes make EMPs too, but they don't leave people unharmed.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2002

Pollomacho from your shocking link, The suggestion has been made that surrounding ships in port with this energy might have prevented the October 2000 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

It made me think of another Tesla experiment Philadelphia Experiment. I like to note Tesla's death ray in my opinion was an invention that was a step towards his ultimate invention in life a device that would End ALL Wars.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2002

"Perhaps the most useful new toy in the Pentagon’s Christmas sack" - I know this is just a journalist trying to create a witty metaphor, but comparing weapons to toys is pretty disturbing. Even Popular Science wouldn't go that far. What's more disturbing, though, is that articles about what sorts of weapon systems will be deployed in the war now seem to outnumber articles questioning whether we should go to war at all.
posted by risenc at 12:04 PM on November 18, 2002

A microwave bomb emits high levels of microwave energy, just like a tv or cellular tower on a larger scale that fries electronics. This is not some highly concentrated constant stream of microwaves like your microwave oven, its a burst of energy. Unless you have chips implanted in your body or you rely on electronic devices to live, then these rays will not fry you, just like driving past a radio tower won't fry you. I wouldn't suggest hanging out near the transmitter for too terribly long nor would I want to be near the point high in the air that the microwave bomb explodes, but its not quite the same as a flesh burning sort of bomb here, although concentrated microwave particle projection beams, much like the "pain rays" in the above links, were tested in the Gulf war and used to melt occupied Iraqi tanks at the front from a great distance. Nukes do have a similar effect and we even developed "non-lethal" (less-destructive) nukes that let off huge energy pulses similarly.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:09 PM on November 18, 2002

I think cx needs to reset his sarcasm meter. (Or perhaps it was fried in a microwave blast.)

In any case, this reflects the thinking in modern warfare analysis that Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR, f/k/a C4I, C3I, etc.) are critical technologies for any conventional armed force; and knocking them out fast and early is critical to victory. The elimination of central strategic control will render each regional unit independent and thus this is part of traditional Clausewitzian defeat in detail methodology, i.e., defeat each individual capability separately to the extent of your ability to do so.

I do find it ironic that weapons which are demonstrably less lethal seem to get certain traditional cadres incomprehensibly excited.
posted by dhartung at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2002

comparing weapons to toys is pretty disturbing

This is such a common metaphor I can't believe anyone's getting all worked up about it. Destroying stuff can be fun; it's not necessarily evil to acknowledge that. In fact, acknowledging it is key to not being seduced by it.

I do find it ironic that weapons which are demonstrably less lethal seem to get certain traditional cadres incomprehensibly excited.

Yeah, because we all know they really would rather kill people even if they don't have to. It's not our stereotypes that are wrong, it's their behavior.
posted by kindall at 1:36 PM on November 18, 2002

I'm confused, which cadres are we talking about here and why are they all worked up exactly? I'd prefer that armies duke it out on an empty field like in the good old days and left the civilians alone, but since those days are long gone, then I'd prefer that if they must fight they just spray each other with some sticky foam or catch each other in big nets (a la A Team) or something. If they weren't going to draft the unwilling, kill civilians or destroy vast tracts of property, I'd be all for militaries shooting each other as often and as much as they want while civilians just go on with life as usual.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2002

Well, Kindall, it's a common metaphor in everyday speech - but not in journalism. Destroying things can be fun? What does that mean? I'll admit to sticking a few M-80s inside GI Joe tanks as a kid, but I'm not sure I'd say the same thing if I were dropping bombs on Baghdad. And, yeah, I expect journalists to see the same distinction in their writing, and not compare weapons systems to Christmas presents.
posted by risenc at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2002

some info about the 'vacuum bomb' my friend pointed me to . . .
This seems a lot more disturbing.

Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal hemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets.

it sucks your eyeballs out.

"but also for its capacity to indiscriminately kill civilians in large numbers and to flatten villages and towns. It is one weapon that has been universally condemned by numerous human rights groups for its massive and indiscriminate destructive power against civilians caught in war."

and more technical info
"the pressure at the center of the explosion can reach 30 kilograms per square centimeter (427 pounds per square inch) – normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch with a temperature between
2,500-3,000 degrees Centigrade [4,532-5,432 degrees Fahrenheit]. This is 1.5 to 2 times greater than the overpressure caused by conventional explosives.
Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 meters per second [9843 feet per second]1. The resultant vacuum pulls in loose objects to fill the void."
posted by cinderful at 3:07 PM on November 18, 2002

The warhead also produces a disinfectant chlorine gas that further minimises the risk of contamination.

Uhh...don't breathe that in.

No, definitely not
posted by nathan_teske at 10:20 PM on November 18, 2002

An anti-tank tank round can have a similar vacuum effect as it passes through a tank at supersonic speeds. Remains of the tank crew are often found dispersed on the outside of the tank on the exit side, even if the armor of the tank itself was only punctured with a hole only a couple inches in diameter despite the round never coming close to actually hitting any of the occupants. Such is war, if we showed everything on TV none of us would ever be for it again, why is it you think only the chicken hawks want to go for another one?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2002

An anti-tank tank round can have a similar vacuum effect as it passes through a tank at supersonic speeds.

This talk of bombs creating a vacuum reminds me of a danger in the Navy. That is having your body compressed from the bulk head of the ship coming down on you. This happens when an explosion happens near the ship and disperses the water from underneath the ship creating a pocket of void. Then the ship falls leaving you suspended in mid air thus you being compressed by the bulk head above you coming down on you. Talk about damage from not hitting your target per say.

if we showed everything on TV none of us would ever be for it again
posted by thomcatspike at 4:31 PM on November 19, 2002

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