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back to article Latest global menace: ELECTROPULSE NORKS, apparently

North Korea is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons designed to cripple military and civilian electronics south of the border, it is being claimed. The South Korean spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, told its Parliament that the Norks had purchased Russian EMP equipment, which they were reverse engineering to …

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In this country we use privatised electricity companies

to achieve much the same thing. Had a lot of outages lately - not just due to the wind.

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Unhappy

Re: In this country we use privatised electricity companies

I don't mind the odd outage as electricity's so cheap ... oh.

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They are developing, hey?

And if your aunt develops balls, she'll become your uncle.

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Mushroom

EMP's? Just like in Red Dawn?

WOLVERINES!

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Headmaster

Hidden in a truck?

Perhaps El Reg's correspondents should actually read the articles they are linking to. The particular one about miniaturised nukes states that North Korea's current weapons would need to be hidden in a truck, not the miniaturised ones. During the Cold War, Russia was widely believed to have constructed a number of nuclear devices that would fit in a briefcase.

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Re: Hidden in a truck?

...and this was just crap pulled out of a dingo's arse.

Suitcase nukes closer to fiction than reality

These things don't fit in briefcases. They fit on the large back of a particular muscular marine.

Yesin believed that a true suitcase nuke would be too expensive for most countries to produce and would not last more than several months because the nuclear core would decompose so quickly. "Nobody at the present stage seeks to develop such devices," he asserted.

Some members of Congress remained convinced that the suitcase nuke problem persists. Perhaps chief among these lawmakers was Curt Weldon, a GOP representative from Pennsylvania who lost his seat in 2006.

Weldon was known for carrying around a mock-up of a suitcase nuke made with a briefcase, foil and a pipe. But it was nowhere near the weight of an actual atomic device.

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Re: Hidden in a truck?

"These things don't fit in briefcases. They fit on the large back of a particular muscular marine."

SUITCASE != Briefcase.

You've just done the equivalent of turning a truck-mounted weapon into a Smartcar mounted one! And anyway, they're not that heavy. I'm pretty sure that you don't need to be a burly marine to carry 23kg:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device)

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Re: Hidden in a truck?

Doesn't have to be a full nuke in a suitcase. A dirty bomb (a nice big chunk of radio active material next to the bomb) could cause chaos for years to come.

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FAIL

True Lies!

Last year, former CIA director R. James Woolsey said such an attack represented an "existential" threat to America

AMERICA NOT STRONG! NORTH KOREA IS BEST KOREA!1!!

and suggested Iran was working with the Norks to develop an EMP strike capability

The check by AIPAC is in the mail, Mister CIA Director. You can stop trying so hard.

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Unhappy

Re: True Lies!

"The check by AIPAC is in the mail, Mister CIA Director. You can stop trying so hard."

True.

Field portable munitions were developed in the early 60s in the US. IIRC they are very small yield (0.25 to 1 Kt) and designed for behind the lines emplacement by special forces, so Lewis Page sized but no smaller.

The trouble a lot of the tricks to reduce the Pu or U needed involve wrapping the core in various (heavy) materials. Simple answer. Scrap them, hence small (but still serious by conventional standards) yield.

The ultimate expression of this was the "Nuclear Six Shooter" which IIRC I traced to an early 60's Pop Sci article on "Weapons of the future." This lead to the idea of the "Californium bullet," based around short half life Higher trans Uranics)

The actual estimated size of the "bullet" was 5lb's!

IRL Californium has been made IIRC in microgram quantities. Short half life --> heavy radiation emission (and I think it's quite a good Neutron emitter, which needs shielding measured in tonnes even for 1gram sources).

So any hidden mini nuke (as they called them back in the day) has probably turned (mostly) to lead by now.

The story to the movie "The Peacemaker" is slightlymore realistic but that's still (I think) way too light for a real one.

OTOH a dirty bomb is (potentially) more plausible...

But that's a bit too stupid for people to deal with.

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Re: True Lies!

Tactical nuclear weapons were being developed by the US as late as the early 80's and they had 3.5" shells as far back as the 1940's. The major issue (other than the fact it was all really stupid) that put the brakes on their development was the risk of losing control of the weapons in a ground battle. The only viable options to mitigate those risks involved soldiers detonating the weapons themselves which was guaranteed to kill them, which is an unacceptable in 'civilized warfare': You can't create a situation that will result in a soldier losing his option to surrender or ask him to commit suicide.

Additionly, all the military types finally determined that anything smaller than a theatre scale nuclear weapon was pointless as the repercussions of their use would guarantee a theatre scale escalation. The only people who still see nuclear weapons as a viable option for warfare are politicians, lunatics and countries with tiny egos. They will eventually all go away and the entire period will be remembered as a time when people forgot how to make war.

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Re: True Lies!

Here y'are:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29

An acquaintance who said he'd worked on these told me about 25 years ago that the round was close enough to critical to melt snow that fell on it.

And that the larger yield one had a burst radius greater than the launcher's range.

Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W48

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Anonymous Coward

Am I the only one who was expecting an article on electric nipple wear?

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Anonymous Coward

But...

Have they released some dodgy photoshop work as "proof"yet?

They're such a comedy dictatorship. Bless.

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Nipple wars?

Point and shoot? Game on!

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Re: But...

"Have they released some dodgy photoshop work as "proof"yet?"

Well, if they've already got nukes and rockets, they just need to loft one above South Korea and they won't need to worry about any fancy EMP devices.

It's an obvious avenue to take and a frightening one. The Norks have obsolete kit, crap C3, no chance of getting air superiority, but lots of men, reasonable anti-air capabilities lots of arty and lots of old 50s era kit. An EMP blast followed by good old human wave tactics would probably be their most effective offensive measure, and one that shouldn't be discounted too casually.

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Yes

The rest of us have learnt to expect to be disappointed.

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Surely we have a means of detecting whether an EMP weapon has been tested?

We could ask those sensitive folk with Electrosmog allergies whether there has been a disturbance in the force recently. With a suitable phased array of acupunctured acolytes, we could probably triangulate the nexus of evil to within a few thousand kilometres.

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FAIL

Nah.

Inverse square law trumps EMP, every time.

GJC

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nah.

LIPC beats inverse square law for EMP, every time!

AC

http://www.gizmag.com/laser-induced-plasma-channel/23117/

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Re: Nah.

Quite funky, certainly, but not really much different to shooting any conventional directional weapon at a target. The point of an EMP is that it will, supposedly, take out anything in a given radius from the device. Trouble is, the inverse square law means that "given radius" is pretty damn small.

GJC

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Thumb Up

"ONE...BILLION DOLLARS..HA HA HA HA

Yours sincerely,

Dr Evil

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Let's not forget...

They also claim to have created nuclear fusion and found a unicorn lair.

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Coat

In other news

"Apparently" Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

Despite having acess to everyone's email and phone calls, I wouldn't rely on them knowing anything.

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Nothing that comes out of South Korea regarding North Korea can be taken at face value. Both the government and the press there have a loooong history of crazy anti-DPRK propoganda. It is a very odd thing too. South Korea has trundled on and become a significant supplier of consumer goods and has a nice little economy going but they hang on to the really outdated anti-DPRK propoganda stuff hard. Maybe it's just for the fun of it, it isn't like Lil' Kim is going to sue for libel.

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Crazy propaganda

@Don: are both Sorks and Norks mental? Or do Sorks libel Norks and spread ugly rumors about them? I ask only because I recall hearing batty things coming from Norkland.

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Re: Crazy propaganda

North Korea has the institutionalized lunacy that comes with having an unenlightened hereditary dictatorship. That's always going to be 17 bushels of crazy. South Korea has specific lunacy regarding the North. Things not relating to the DPRK are on par with mainstream news coming out of any other country.

It is important to remember that South Korea has tabloid/paparazzi outlets just like the West. The problem is that it's hard for people who aren't familiar with the various publications to determine what is 'legitimate' news versus 'crazy' news.

Consider the Daily Mail, everyone in the UK knows it is satire, like The Onion, but more shouty. Lots of people outside the UK don't know that though and cite it as a legitimate source of news. News about the Norks that comes from South Korea (Sorks?) generally falls into the same category as the Daily Mail but it isn't satire. It's straight up, often slanderous, propaganda.

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Joke

But would the glourius leader* agree to develop this?

*Or Hey Yu Fab Boi to give him his proper title.

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M7S
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I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

Not being a person reassured by many of HMG's reassurances about how well prepared we are for anything at all, I think the secondary effects of a strike on the UK might be pretty serious.

So far as we can reasonably guess/extrapolate, if there was a well funded, suitably motivated nutter with access to the right kind of technical support around, how effective actually are these things?

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Re: I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

As a small-scale disrupter in terrorist or saboteur hands, one has to worry.

On a large scale, inverse-squares is your friend. You'd have to generate a LOT of electrical energy to have the same effect at 1km rance compared to 10m. 10,000 times as much.

And for the record a nuke generates a serious EMP when detonated in the upper atmosphere, above 50km up. Lower, and it shorts out its own EMP with its own fireball. Not to imply that a nuclear fireball is in any way harmless ....

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M7S
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@ Nigel11

Thank you your silverness. I was worried that not only might a truckful of this stuff being set off in the city knacker the IT setup in the office but then there'd be no transport home as the ECU's in all the vehicles would be stuffed. Now I can be happy that not only can I get home but that the DVR will not have been wiped and that we will not have to revert to Victorian-era technology.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

hmmm...the last open paper that I saw on guided EMPs mentioned that with a UV laser locked on to a distant target, said UV power ramped-up a bit to generate some ions along the path, we're no longer talking about inverse-square limited physics - its more or less dumping your full velvet-electroded vircator terawatts, linearly!

OK, back to lurking, oh last point, just thought I'd mention that Andrei Sakharov was an originator of the flux compression devices that can power a DIY vircator...

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Re: I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

Oh yes, the UV laser pulse zap gun. Yes, you could deliver a large pulse as far as the first object in the path which is opaque to UV. That would usually be a window. You could probably break the window, but a bullet (or brick) works better. You might just about be able to disable the PC in the room (although I've experienced lightning striking a lamp-post about ten feet from my PC, and the PC survived - I had momentary doubt about myself!). But for military use, wouldn't even a humble RPG wreak much greater havoc?

A zap gun has probably got some application as a wireless Taser (or real-life "Phaser set to stun") if they can make a suitable hand-held laser. You don't need an extremely fast rise-time or enormous E-fields to knock a person out. (Once again if you want to kill them, a bullet is probably a better bet). It's other application might be near-speed-of-light delivery of such a pulse to (say) an incoming hostile aircraft or missile. But aircraft are provably hardened against lightning strikes.

I don't have access to any top secret papers, but I very much doubt that a Terawatt pulse at one end of a wire made of ionised air can arrive as a terawatt pulse at the other. It's a dispersive transmission line, and I'd expect the pulse to be considerably broadened (and consequently flattened, de-fanged) in transit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

Yes, I think you're mostly right - but I'm sure I saw a video in 2006 of a us cop car making a hard-stop on a test vehicle with a directed energy blast that fried/disrupted/disturbed/reset the target vehicles engine controller. The scary vircator stuff is probably only currently deployed in space. I do keep a spare hf rig wrapped in foil, inside a biscuit tin, like in the good old days when operating a raynet test callout from Chelmsford town hall nuclear shelter. I suggest that Seoul buys rather a lot of Alcan for their computers! Modern DEW EMP rise-times & local induced power levels are rather different than from the Starfish-Prime event

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Re: I have to say that EMP is one of the real assymetical threats that causes me concern

Nigel 11, one little detail. I believe the necessary height for any nuclear EMP being produced is rather bigger, like 500km and up. The EMP itself is produced by electrons, being knocked out from Ionosphere by gama flash, and sent as giant wave of electrons (in other worlds, electric current) through Earth magnetosphere. 50km above Earth is too low. Otherwise you are spot on.

One comment to ComaToes below, I would add, that during first Gulf War I read about US Navy using EMP shells (shot from battleship Missouri, no less) being used to knock out Iraqi coastal radar stations. While I must agree, that real 16inch shell filled with TNt is probably better for these uses as well, I also would not discard the possibility of non nuclear EMP weapons being more that concept.

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Anonymous Coward

I bet they can be deployed in 45 minutes...

...and are made from red mercury.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I bet they can be deployed in 45 minutes...

that's what I thought at first, but then I found much scattered documents on Directed Energy Weapons, the USNavy glossary of DEW terminology itself is so complete that they either exist, or have had some serious vaporware marketing going on.

A colleague then informed me that he'd bought an industrial version of a DEW, for controllable erosion of radioactive elements & their cladding - this big beast wasn't that expensive and its presumed that the more compact .mil version therefore has a commercial ecosystem to support it

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Facepalm

Only NUKES can create an EMP? Oh rly.

Who's memory is shorter than all the commentards above? El Reg's own staff writers apparently:

"Rumours have persisted for decades of effective non-nuclear EMP weapons, but even the mighty USA appears not to have had any real success in developing these"

Had Jasper bothered to research his piece he would have found this previous article (here linked from El Reg for the lulz):

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/25/boeing_champ_missile_microwave_attacks/

Of course that could just be US sabre rattling as well but it should have been included in the article for objectivities sake.

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Meh

I beleive the even years February edition of the IEEE Trans on Magnetics is good for this

It's the conference proceedings of a pulsed power conference.

Explosive generation is challenging.

The problem is twofold. a)Generate b)Direct the result.

Viable? Yes. Practical? maybe. Viable in a country of N. Korea's industrial base? Unconvincing.

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Meet Faraday Kim Jong-Un

What you will now see is South Korea put up a Faraday cage.

There are too many myths about EMP, Not being able to use a computer will be the least of your worries when you realize the EMP has fallout following it.

EMP is not as effective as everyone assumes, sure its going to cause tons of damage, but most things will remain unaffected due to modern buildings acting like faraday cages and much of the equipment not being turned on or plugged in at the time, and most metal vehicles will escape unscathed.

Then you will probably die from radiation or electrocution.

But at least the toaster will still work!

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