EMP, Again

There’s a lot of chatter about Iranian EMP again (it seems to come back periodically). here’s Walid Phares over at the Counterterrorism Blog:

Over the past seven months I have been interacting with US Homeland Security and European defense officials and experts on a the potential next threat to the West, more particularly against mainland America. The signature of that strategic menace is EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse; a weapon of the future, already available in design, construction and possible deployment. As eyes are focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, and as we began recently to understand that the missile advances are as important then the fissile material development, attention is now being drawn by private sector projects and some in the defense world to what can cause a wider circle of damages and thus more deterrence against US national security.

In short, and I borrow from the Project “Shield America.org,” an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could be triggered by a nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude over America. The resulting blast would create an EMP, a shockwave that could “cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure.” Even if a high-altitude EMP kills nobody at first, it would paralyze a large section of the United States. The lingering practical and economic effects would take anywhere from hours to years to resolve: when secondary effects are considered, an EMP could be even deadlier than a direct nuclear strike against the mainland. Indeed, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has written: “Where the terrorist airliner attacks of 9/11 killed thousands, a terrorist EMP attack could indirectly kill millions and conceivably cause the permanent collapse of our entire society.”

I’ve written about that before, and done a little bit of math on it. I’m certainly no arms control wonk, but what I came away with was the belief that it would take a 1 MT weapon detonated about 19 – 20 miles up to have a meaningful impact as opposed to a relatively local impact.

I’ve gotta believe that no new nuclear power is likely to come out of the box with a 1 MT weapon, and that the technology to get it 20 miles above New Jersey isn’t something that Iran will be able to do soon enough – reliably enough (remember, no do-overs on something like this) to risk their national survival on a prototype.

25 thoughts on “EMP, Again”

  1. The Japanese risked their national survival on a “Sunday Punch” that even THEY knew in advance would not be a total knock-out blow even if everything went according to plan. So don’t be so sure, A.L.
    Nations/societies/movements that do not believe time is on their side are often tempted to risk their very existence in the here and now on the chance, however slight, that they will prevail–rather than suffer what they see as a slow, but inevitable, demise over the long haul in the face of a more dynamic and advanced mortal foe.

    Remember, these are religious zealots who hold an interpretation of history and their religion which inculcates the desirability of armageddon.
    And sooner rather than later….

  2. Please see previous emails regarding EMP effects over distance.

    It is like ESD – a powerful pulse of very-high frequency.

    The bad news: this means that any wire longer than a few mm act as an antenna. So, the small wires inside a computer chip, forming the leads between the chip itself and the outside world, will act as an antenna, and the chip gets hit with lightning that you and I can’t see.

    Also, it can penetrate very small holes in shielding (like the size of a pencil).

    So, pretty much any modern electronics is at risk.

    If you want to protect some electronics, put them in a metal box, and put adhesive copper tape all around the openings – be sure not to leave any slits longer than a mm long, regardless of the width. The tape is cheap, and easy to buy. Mentally, think of EMP like water – make the box watertight, and EMP won’t be able to get in. People always forget about the long narrow slits…

    The good news is, that it _is_ a high-frequency signal, so anything that is a natural low-pass filter will block the signal. Also, it won’t penetrate either. There’s no lasting effects – it’s like lightning, once it’s over, everything’s safe. So, if one can replace all the computer chips in a nationwide network, the wiring itself will still be good, and everything will start to work. Planes from overseas could land within hours at airports, as long as somebody has a military ground-control system setup.

    I _do_ hope someone’s at least shielded the internet backbone and principle comms systems, power and water plants and power grid. Then relief efforts could at least communicate, and people would have water.

    I’ve done a bit of ESD and EMI shielding, and the principles are the same as EMP shielding.

    I see that anyone who thinks about using one is going to be deeply conflicted: on the one hand, it is remarkably effective way to destroy a modern civilization – think about everyone walking outside, and you’re all in 1850 – the only things that work are kerosene lights and wood-burning stoves. So, massive starvation will be a problem. Economic collapse clearly occurs – there’s no way to buy or sell, no way to manufacture, and no way to transport either.

    On the other hand, that economic destruction means also that there’ll be no more customers for whatever is manufactured in your country. If you’re dictator of an oil-producing country, oil just went to $20. If you’re not, nobody’s buying your cheap clothing. International banking will go away, and all the billions you stole from your country will disappear. You’ll have to deal with a lot of civil unrest from all those unemployed people. You’ll have a large and angry US military (and if you’re paranoid, the international media’s going to be angry as well, which is probably worse – you just starved a lot of their friends & coworkers). I suspect that the people running the dictatorships with nukes are more interested in staying and power, and collecting wealth (even if they’ll never be able to spend it), than ruining their investment.

    Of course, that’s just my hope. I hope that Hitler and Tojo set good examples – even though they had chemical and biological weapons, they didn’t use them at the end. (how’s that – I managed to get Hitler into the discussion, I did it on my first post, AND I used him as a positive role-model. I must be really post-modern or whatever the “O” calls it)

    Ken

  3. A starting question: How far would this EMP blast drift? And how long would it take to fix damage caused by an EMP?

    The only point I see to an EMP is to temporarily paralyze us for an immediate after strike. I don’t understand how such complicated plan would be better served than, say, detonating a nuke inside of a city like NY or DC, or near a major military outpost…. I think such a strike would also cause immediate panic and paralyzation of the system (take 9/11 for instance which only killed 3,000 people, but shut down our nation for several days). A nuclear (or dirty) bomb seems much more plausible (either from Iran or a terrorist cell) than a Bond-like EMP scheme.

    Either way, Iran is going to face immediate retaliation. Think about it, we have how many nuclear submarines? We have how many ballistic missles? We have how many aircraft carriers? A good number of these (especially those offshore) will be untouched by any bomb blast, and will be quickly mobilized for a return strike.

    I just don’t see what Iran could gain from an attack like this.

  4. The point of having nuclear weapons is to credibly threaten to use them. More particularly, it’s to cause your adversaries or potential adversaries to think twice–thrice–before doing something that would damage your vital interests.

    Thus, acquiring nukes is a no-brainer for Iran.

    However ratty the devices turn out to be and however unreliable the delivery vehicles are, it’s enough to deter a rational foe. Having to calculate that there is a risk of a successful counterstrike by Iran, will Israel/Saudi Arabia/the U.S./Western Europe go ahead and attack something that the mullahs view as essential?

    No.

    If the Revolutionary Guard or the ayatollah-ocracy wants to use the weapons, it’s a different story. Detonate one openly in a way that kills Americans or citizens of an allied state, and the equation changes. At the first satellite sensor’s alarm, the U.S. leadership knows that deterrence has failed; the Iranian leadership is thinking Twelfth-Iman’s-Return, or is otherwise indifferent to national suicide. From our point of view, the rational priority changes to eliminating the ability of the Iranians to strike again. Move hard, ruthlessly, and fast.

    Knowing all this, there are two logical positions for the Iranians to take.

    * Employ your nuclear arsenal in classical Cold War fashion, as a deterrent.

    * If you must strike, do so in a way that reduces the risk of blowback. Best is a way that can’t be traced back to Tehran. Second-best is making it difficult to demonstrate convincingly that Tehran is responsible.

    Given (1) the penetration of the Iranian program by domestic opponents of the regime and (likely) the Israelis, (2) technology such as mass-spec isotope signatures of U and Pu production programs, and (3) the prospect of future defections, a perfectly untraceable strike is unlikely.

    On the other hand, consider:

    * the disbelief that routinely greets the U.S. whenever it offers evidence to support its interests,

    * the hostility of most of the U.S. and world media to the U.S.,

    * the similar hostility of the UN and its agencies (e.g. the IAEA),

    * the limited number of people who can understand the technical evidence,

    * the beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt forensic standard of proof that ‘the World’ and ‘the Left’ would require in assigning responsibility in the aftermath of a blast.

    The IRG and mullahs will have already concluded that a sufficiently hard-to-trace attack is the only kind worth contemplating.

    This would take the form of a Liberian-registered tramp freighter off the Tel Aviv coast, or a Coney loaded with Indonesian-made sneakers transiting through “Long Beach harbor,”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008944.php or a stolen Soviet or Pakistani nuke passed to al-Qaeda through a cutout.

    An Iranian EMP strike? Doesn’t fit the bill, can’t be made to fit the bill. Not worth spending a lot of time worrying about it.

  5. ‘Just deterrence’ isnt a very comforting thought with a nation like Iran that has already openly supported terrorism world wide. Anybody want to speculate on what they will try once they have their get out of jail free nuclear arsenal?

    Iran will win in the brinkmanship game… and they will probably employ it to neuter us in the entire Middle East. If Iran helps topple the Lebanese government and turns the nation into an armed camp, how do we deter them if they have nukes? If Iran pays terrorists to shoot up malls in Des Moines, how do we deter them?

    The EMP situation is more of a tactic than a game changer. Iran will have the ability to cripple any major _region_ of the world. IE- shut down the Midwest, or from London to Bonn, or from Tel Aviv to Baghdad. That allows a handful of weapons to take on a larger significance. Would Israel respond to an EMP burst that ‘only’ killed a few hundred people by killing 20 million Iranians with a conventional nuclear strike? Would we? Thats the kind of dangerous math that will be played by some dangerous people. This isnt J.O.S.H.U.A. of HAL making the decisions here, its some pretty nutty guys in Tehran.

    In other words the EMP may be very very dangerous precisely because it _isnt_ a conventional nuclear weapon. MAD only works if you are very sure the other side will respond with overwhelming force. If you can convince yourself that you can get in a shot that will be responded to with less punishment than you meeted out (and any EMP attack on the West would be far more devastating than the reciprocal attack on backwards Iran), MAD may fail. This logic wouldn’t necessarilly apply to a first strike, but in an escalation scenario it is a VERY real risk.

  6. I’m sitting here reading the replies and it seems to me that everyone is still missing the main point I made (or perhaps dismissing it) about the psychology of megalomaniac leaders and messianic zealots. Remember, Adolph Hitler is quoted by those survivors present as having said in his waning hours in the bunker that the German people _deserved_ to perish from the face of the earth as they had not proven themselves worthy by the very act of their failure to win the war. People who think like this do not calculate the niceties of deterrence theory or worry overmuch (if at all) about their own citizens to the extent that possible massive numbers of dead among their own civilian population would ever be a constraining factor.

  7. Mark Buehner #6 —

    bq. ‘Just deterrence’ isn’t a very comforting thought

    Agreed. It wasn’t with the Soviets or the Chinese, either. These same arguments raged.

    Since a pseudonymous blog commenter’s comments are unlikely to influence world affairs, I can say what must be plain to Bush, Rice, Sarkozy, Brown, et al.: The Iranians will shortly have nuclear weapons and delivery systems. It could be delayed a couple of years by US or Israeli air strikes, but this would be so costly–and the benefits so uncertain–that neither will be undertaken. A major ground offensive would be needed to stop the Iranian Manhattan project. Won’t happen.

    Diplomatic huffing and puffing aside, that’s where we stand in the closing weeks of 2008.

    My point in #5 was that it is more likely that the Iranian leadership will adopt strategies and tactics that benefit them, as they see things.

    It’s true that my assessment (or any assessment) might be way off. The Israelis in particular have reason to worry about the mullahs’ possible indifference to national suicide.

    On the other hand, assume that the mullahs are crafty, strategic, and rational: getting Israel to worry about their possible indifference to suicide fits nicely with their long term goal of “wiping Israel off the map.” Israel is a successful Mideast country to the extent that its economy flourishes. If foreign investors and Israeli parents have to add “insane, nuclear-armed Iranians” into their calculations, how will that affect investment decisions? Emigration decisions?

    An EMP strike has a return address. That makes it a very undesirable tactic.

  8. _”A major ground offensive would be needed to stop the Iranian Manhattan project. Won’t happen.”_

    I don’t think that is true. People talk about redundancy etc, but breaking things isnt the only prospect. If you kill a bunch of the braintrust working on this, that isnt something that can be replaced overnight or spares kept on the shelf.

    Of course ‘stop’ is a relative term. Delaying the program for 5 years would be a laudable goal. Im not advocating it, as there are significant political risks to say the least, but even a few years setback is nothing to scoff at.

    _”On the other hand, assume that the mullahs are crafty, strategic, and rational: getting Israel to worry about their possible indifference to suicide fits nicely with their long term goal of “wiping Israel off the map.””_

    Too true. It was unspoken American policy to seem a little reckless and unpredictable to the Soviets. Our problem is that these guys may not be faking, and we have no way of telling the difference, particularly with a national intelligence apparatus that actually does our analysis more harm than good historically.

    _”An EMP strike has a return address. That makes it a very undesirable tactic.”_

    Unless it doesn’t. If at 4pm today, an EMP was launched off a fishing trowl that scuttled itself immediately after, who would we blame? How would we respond? It would take weeks to gain anything like ‘definitive’ proof on where the material originated, and even then there is plausible deniability. MAD works because of instant response. They launch, we launch, no time to think or consider. The Iranians could make a damn strong case that given a few weeks to think about the implications, the US wouldnt be able to bring itself to issue any sort of massive reprisal against Iran because we _suspect_ a weapon originated with them. We would end up blowing up some empty military installations most likely, probably embargoing their ports. Hardly equivalent to frying every electrical circuit on the Eastern seaboard and plunging most of American into an electrical infastructure disaster (remember the last time the grid failed? and that was NOTHING like what an EMP would do).

    3rd parties are still our biggest nightmare, and Iran has made 3rd parties their signature move.

  9. virgil xenophon #7 —

    Don’t mean to ignore your argument. You’re right, it might be that the IRG and ayatollah leaders of Iran are like the Hitler of 1945, and have their eyes on prizes that are not of this world. Hastening the coming of the 12th Imam, raining down nuclear wrath on the hated Zionist entity, or the Greater Satan, for that matter. Come what may.

    On the other hand, there is little evidence at this point that such passions are governing what they do. Their actions comport with their view of their interests domestically and internationally (support of terror in Lebanon, Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq; alliances with Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas; nuclear deals with Russia; oil deals with China and India; correct relations with remaining Persian Gulf and land neighbors).

    Are there important examples of Iranian behavior that can’t be reconciled with the notion that the leadership is in ‘rational’ (as we see it, that is) pursuit of their goals? That would lead one to think that they might be likely to attempt an EMP strike?

    Of course, this isn’t exactly comforting. Tuchman’s book “The Guns of August” is about how national leaders–all pursuing ‘rational’ policies–mobilized their armies in 1914… actions that were key causes of the destruction of their societies, 3 to 35 years later.

  10. Mark Buehner #9 —

    At this point, I think that it would be technically near-impossible for a country of Iran’s sophistication to pull off the fishing-trawler EMP attack that you outline, for the next decade or so. That they would be unable to design and test a large-enough warhead. And a sea-launched ballistic missile capable of delivering the warhead. And that, given the leaks in their nuclear programs to date, that the mullahs would have no reason to believe that these efforts would remain unknown to the West.

    If project “EMP Strike Against Great Satan” can’t be completed in secret, the return address problem returns.

    Any links that discuss what a successful trawler/tramp steamer EMP attack would entail?

    In contrast, seems it would be fairly straighforward to secure a stolen Russian or Pakistani weapon, then hand it off to a third party to smuggle into the territory of Great or Lesser Satan. Even if the plot fails, no particular harm done.

  11. _”At this point, I think that it would be technically near-impossible for a country of Iran’s sophistication to pull off the fishing-trawler EMP attack that you outline, for the next decade or so.”_

    Possibly so… but the bottleneck is the device itself. Once the nuclear arsenal is established its just a matter of time before the nation can devise basically any variation of weapon system they like.

    In this instance its not much of a stretch. The warhead doesnt need to be thermonuclear, so yield is basically just a matter of collecting the fissile material (much more complicated of course, but not nearly as daunting as developing a hydrogen bomb, or for that matter developing a working device to begin with). Missile technology is already well established by Iran and a number of other suspects. Getting it to launch off a ship is trivial.

    Bottom line, 10 years isnt a very long time, and once the nuke is a foregone conclusion the EMP weapon is a foregone conclusion. It just becomes a matter of time and whether they would want to do it. The only way for the US to stop even delay such a possibility is to stop Iran from going nuclear in the first place.

  12. This brings me back to my pet doctrine: declare every rogue nuclear regime directly accountable for any nuclear attack of unknown origin. If a bomb takes out Las Vegas, NK, Iran, Syria, and anybody else who wont play ball are instantly treated as thought the missiles had launched from their silos. Create a big incentive to play ball with the non-proliferation regime. Make NK decide if they want their fates to be tied to the stability of Iran, and vice-versa.

  13. Virgil, AMac (#1, #7, #11)

    Hitler’s irrational evilness has already been discussed in this website, and I think the evidence proves that it was a very rational evilness what this dictator _suffered_. Complex systems such as the ruling structures of a country need of this kind of thinking.

    Another issue is that once trapped, they choose the less costly path (at least from the point of view of their rational assessment). Sometimes they miscalculate, like Saddam Hussein (no amount of money paid through the Oil for Food program saved him) or Hitler, but quite often the “irrational evilness” myth is simply a way to conceal someone else’s interests and/or responsibility in the actions taken.

  14. A.L.:

    One quibble, if I may. You take comfort from belief that it will take a 1 MT weapon, and that the Iranians will not have the ability to launch one of that size to the requisite altitude [>19 miles]for some time. I have researched and written on the subject, albeit not covering employment by the Iranians. As long as you are >19 miles in altitude, the effects are only minimally affected by weapon yield. The pulse is created by the phenomenon called “Compton Scattering” in the ionosphere. While the notational yield for most discussions is 1 MT, a sub-Hiroshima sized device [10-20 KT] will yield functionally identical effects. This is in just the range that we can expect from the very first successful Iranian devices. Such a warhead would be physically far smaller and lighter than a 1 MT device.

    Further, they have tested [and we were watching] the SHAHAB III missile in a trajectory optimized not for range, but for more for altitude. They reached >100 miles. The notational fishing vessel as a launch platform is not realistic. However, the Iranian government operates quite a few nominally civilian vessels more than large enough to hold one or more SHAHAB III’s either in TEL’s or capsules built into the holds. Non-Iranian flag vessels can easily be chartered through cut outs. Since the damage of an EMP strike will entail the complete replacement of ALL unshielded electronic equipment within the affected area [the circle defined by the line of sight from the detonation altitude to the ground, for 20 miles HOB, that implies a circle about 400 miles radius] the effects will be massive and long lasting.

    From the moment that Iran, or other hostile power with access to the SCUD missile variants that are commonly exported by the Chinese and North Koreans, attains nuclear capability and a sea based delivery system we are at risk at home.

    There are reports that the Iranians may, repeat may, create their first nuclear device [of unknown size, yield, and weight] within a month of our next presidential inauguration [February 2009]. Regardless of who wins Tuesday, I am not sanguine about our fate, although I am obviously more concerned in one event than the other.

    Subotai Bahadur

  15. Subotai –

    I’ll certainly yield to people who do this for a living – I’m a rank amateur. I based my calculations on “Glasstone & Dolan’s ‘The Effects of Nuclear Weapons'”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/emp_dont_lose_any_sleep_this_year.php and it was my impression that while the Compton effect dramatically increases the impact of any weapon – that it was still somewhat scalar.

    I’ll suggest that the possibility of a squib plus the possibility of a launch failure wouldn’t be trivial; you raise a realistic possibility in suggesting a scenario, but the odds on a successful launch and detonation would be low enough that it would be a risky issue.

    But you’re also right on the notion of traceability. I’ve suggested an answer “in my old post on ‘The Godfather'”:http://www.examiner.com/a-335387~Marc_Danziger__What_should_the_U_S__do_now_that_N__Korea_may_have_nuclear_weapons_.html

    Simply put, we explain that in the event of a nuclear incident in the West that cannot be explicitly traced to a known source of nuclear weapons, we will immediately decapitate the regimes of Iran and North Korea, and destroy enough of their physical and nuclear infrastructure to make it very, very difficult for them to continue nuclear engineering, whether for peaceful or weapons purposes for a very long time. This would have to be both something supported by the president and overwhelmingly passed by Congress. We’d have to show some clarity and resolve throughout our political class.

    A.L.

  16. I question our ability to decapitate any regime far more than i question Iran’s ability to launch a EMP strike on the US. I’m not exagerrating.

    I agree with the premise exactly, but the threat needs to be massive nuclear reprisal. Anything less invites the enemy to pull a Hussein and we end up looking weaker than we started.

  17. #1 from virgil xenophon at 6:43 am on Oct 31, 2008

    Nations/societies/movements that do not believe time is on their side are often tempted to risk their very existence in the here and now on the chance, however slight, that they will prevail–rather than suffer what they see as a slow, but inevitable, demise over the long haul in the face of a more dynamic and advanced mortal foe

    _I tend to agree. There is also the fact that people do some pretty idiotic things, especially when fueled by fanaticism. It is never a good idea to underestimate the power of sheer idiocy._

  18. bq. I do hope someone’s at least shielded the internet backbone and principle comms systems, power and water plants and power grid. Then relief efforts could at least communicate, and people would have water.

    That is classified.

  19. I would be very pleasantly surprised to discover any significant portion of the US’s SCADA systems were rad-hardened in the slightest.

  20. A friend of mine once told me: _you want to attack the US? Mine the Gibraltar strait_. I mean, Iran does not need to come close to the US mainland in order to attack its economy: that is an strategic non-sense.

  21. AMac hit half the equation on the head in #5. Iran is primarily seeking deterrence. Deterrence against the US trying block Iran from becoming the new hegemonic force in the PG and perhaps most of the ME along with its allies in Syria and Lebanon.

    Iran has definite ideas about how the gulf oil states need to run the hydrocarbon business. First and foremost is the price of oil has been artificially low the last 30 years. Though the price spike to 150 may have been unsustainable, Iran has on more than one occasion made it clear that oil should be over $100/bbl. AND that oil should not be traded in USD. The transition of oil from dollars to an alternative currency is a nightmare scenario for the US with its already crippled economy.

    But a third and not often discussed “side effect” of a nuclear capable Iran is the demoralizing and intimidatory effect it will have on the citizens of Israel. The Jews of Israel are a far more affluent and mobile population than their surrounding Arabs. Once the level of danger and fear reaches a threshold, for which there is no military solution, they will simply choose to live elsewhere. Though several Jews that I have brought this point up with claim that the Israeli “settler spirit” makes this unthinkable. Rest assured, even high level Israeli officials have made this very same point.

    “Even worse, the mere existence of an Iranian nuclear bomb, the government in Jerusalem believes, would trigger an exodus of the educated elite that could spell disaster for the country, both economically and culturally. “Iran would be in a position to destroy the Zionist dream without even pressing a button,” says Ephraim Sneh, a retired general and cabinet minister for many years.” – Ephraim Sneh, retired general and cabinet minister

    In fact, it would seem that Ahmedinijad himself understands this point very keenly when he says the state of Israel will simply vanish.

    As for the inital point of thread, the infamous EMP strike, Iran may possess that capability at some distant point, but it would simply be another deterrence weapon in the arsenal. Their past behaviour shows that they have a limited and very achievable goal. Being the new sheriff in ME.

  22. I want to hark back to my first post(#1) and the example of Imperial Japan. We now know that one of the reasons they decided to attack Pearl Harbor in a direct confrontation rather than using salami tactics (which probable would have worked, considering the stste of public opinion in the US) to take SEA piecemeal was their fear of the oil and scrap metal embargo initiated by FDR and that it would degrade their forces slowly while at the same time the US would have time to build up it’s already unimpaired forces apace in response to Japanese moves on SEA, China, etc. Same for fear of giving Australia time to fortify itself and island approaches.

    My point is that the Japanese decision-making process was a highly rational and calculated one not driven by religious zealotry–although undoubtedly by racial contempt–but arrived at based on a faulty “read” of the mental state of both the American public and it’s key leadership cadre. Therefore I wouldn’t take as much comfort as some here who express the belief that evidence suggests that at it’s core, Iran’s key power-brokers, etc., seem not to be guided solely by religious passions to the extent that many fear. I, for one, find cold comfort in that. I feel this way because of historical experience. Miscalculations about what American political leader-ship would “accept” or “tolerate,” as we found out in the Cuban missile crisis, can easily lead to the brink of disaster–only this time perhaps beyond…..

  23. Hey TOC–on the assumption that you write comments so that others will read them, I have a suggest: please follow the very old (pre-internet) quoting convention of using italics for the words of others, not for your own.

  24. Actually if you look at Starfish Prime and several other high altitude nuke tests…even a minuscule yield of 1.4Kt was enough to knock out communications and other older solid state (tube type) electronics almost 1000 miles away in Hawaii, it was detonated at 300Km above the surface of the earth (well within range of many normal low tech missiles in production by 3rd world nations)

    A nominal yield of 20Kt (not that hard for them to get, let alone the 1Mt yield) would be over 20x the strength and not to mention our society is now using microcircuits which are hundreds of times more susceptible to damage than old solid state electronics

    It wouldn’t take much to hurt us BAD!!!

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