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Was sind "High Power Microwave"-Waffen? / High-power microwave weapons

Sie sollen im angekündigten Krieg gegen Irak eingesetzt werden / An attack on Iraq is expected to see the first use of HPM-weapons

Die US-Armee plant für einen möglichen Irak-Angriff auf sogenannte "High Power Microwave"-Waffen zurückzugreifen. Dies meldeten Anfang August das Wissenschaftsmagazin "New Scientist" und das Fachmagazin "Aviation Now". Die Waffen würden gezielt die elektronische Infrastruktur feindlicher Kommandozentralen mit elektromagnetischen Feldern von enormer Stärke zerstören. Im Folgenden wollen wir die wesentlichen Wirkungsmechanismen der neuen Waffe auf Deutsch kurz erläutern, wobei wir uns an eine Meldung der "Netzeitung" vom 9. August halten, und sodann weitere Erläuterungen auf Englisch geben.


Ziele der E-Bomben könnten befestigte unterirdische Bunkeranlagen und auch Militäranlagen in der Nähe ziviler Einrichtungen werden. Bunkeranlagen seien so gut wie nicht gegen die Waffen zu verteidigen, da die elektromagnetischen Impulse über Versorgungsleitungen und Kabelanlagen in die Anlagen eindringen könnten.

Kaum Schäden bei Zivilisten

Bei einem Einsatz gegen Ziele inmitten stark bewohnter Gebiete wären darüber hinaus zivile Opfer weitgehend ausgeschlossen. Die Wirkung der Waffen richtete sich nur gegen elektronische Anlagen. Menschen würden von ihnen nicht verletzt. Die High-Power-Microwave-Waffen (HPM) könnten beispielsweise einen so genannten Explosive-Pumped-Flux-Generator. Hier wäre ein stark elektrisch geladenes Drahtbündel um ein Kupferrohr gewickelt, das wiederum selbst mit Sprengstoff gefüllt wäre. Bei einer Explosion in der Luft käme der Draht mit dem Kupferkern in Kontakt, ein Kurzschluss entstünde, der die elektrische Ladung in Stromstärken von über zehn Millionen Ampére umwandeln würde.

Die Systeme sind nach Angaben des Magazins nur für einmaligen Gebrauch geeignet. Nach Informationen des Magazins wird aber mit einer baldigen Entwicklung von mehrfach verwendbaren Typen gerechnet.

Bereits während des Balkankonflikts war es zum Einsatz von Vorgängermodellen dieser "HPM"-Waffen gekommen. Sogenannte "Blackout-Bomben" hatten durch den Ausstoß von Kohlenstoff-Filamenten über elektrischen Anlagen Kurzschlüsse verursacht und damit die Einrichtungen betriebsunfähig machen können.

High-power microwave weapons

An attack on Iraq is expected to see the first use of high-power microwave weapons that produce a split-second spike of energy powerful enough to damage electronic components and scramble computer memories. Expendable, high-power microwave weapons mounted in cruise missiles and other aerial weapons could be first used in combat in Iraq as the U.S. introduces new technological wrinkles to create confusion and surprise.

They are designed, at least initially, for use from cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft. Adding a directed-energy weapon to an unmanned combat vehicle "is the ideal mode," said a British aerospace official. Britain also is well advanced in the technology. "There's no risk to a pilot, there's a greater degree of accuracy [in hitting the target], and it doesn't rely on scattering flechettes that murder half the population of the country you are attacking. Everybody wants that capability. There are those who say we could demonstrate it today," he said with a smile.

The combination of unmanned vehicles and HPM (high-power microwave) weapons also provides a way to attack the toughest targets in any foe's arsenal, said Gen. John Jumper, U.S. Air Force chief of staff.
"If you combine directed energy with the UCAVs of the type we have today, you have a combination that uses stealth to go into [heavily defended territory and HPM to] tell the SA-10 that it's a Maytag washer on the rinse cycle rather than a missile about to shoot somebody down," Jumper said. "You can fly this thing in and debilitate in various ways the sophisticated communications and electronics that are going to cause you the greatest worry [and make the attack] with deniability. I don't think it will compete with F-15Es and the Joint Strike Fighter, but it would be valuable to commanders in an [air defense] suppression or information operations role."

Lt. Gen. Charles Wald, Air Force deputy chief of staff for air and space operations (and newly nominated for promotion to the rank of general and the post of deputy commander of U.S. European Command), also hinted at the use of new technologies in a recent Air Force Magazine interview.

Electronic warfare in any new conflict will include information operations, which can involve the placing of false targets via computer penetration, according to another Air Force official. "And perhaps some emerging technologies that are still classified," Wald said.

In the longer term, perhaps in 3-5 years, the military expects to have reusable HPM weapons that can be installed on aircraft or unmanned combat aircraft. Because of HPM's limited range--now just getting beyond the 1,000-ft. mark--planners look at unmanned aircraft as the perfect platform to go into heavily defended areas to damage air defense radars, communications, command and control computers, and chemical/biological storage or production facilities.

However, HPM weapons now available to be used against Iraq are not talked about openly. They are built, like bombs, as expendable one-time-use weapons. Many of the payloads are designed for carriage by cruise missiles like the ALCM, Tomahawk, Jassm or Britain's Storm Shadow. However, there may be an alternative to one-way missions by these expensive cruise missiles. At the recent Farnborough air show, Lockheed Martin's advanced development program produced concepts for returnable cruise missiles, which would help defray the cost of expensive airframes and HPM payloads.

Two systems have been used to produce HPM. An older technology explodes high explosives wrapped around a coil with an electrical field to produce a blast of HPM. A version of this was tested by the U.S. Air Force using specially modified Air Launched Cruise Missiles but was supposedly abandoned for not being directional or long-range enough.

A higher tech version uses a new generation of capacitors. These are discharged, and the pulse of energy focused in a relatively tight arc in front of the missile.

Range of HPM is expected to continue increasing as apertures and electronically steered antennas are improved, said a senior U.S. aerospace official. This class of weapon is expected to be effective against command and control centers and weapons production sites buried deep underground as a defense against allied air attacks. CIA officials have noted for the last decade greatly increased purchases of Earth-boring equipment by Middle Eastern countries. While these buried sites may be immune to bombs, they have vulnerabilities to HPM. They must have access to the surface for water, ventilation, electricity and communications. All these provide conduits for bursts of energy into the underground structure.

Current research emphasis has now shifted to "reusable payloads, not on one-way, cruise missile-type missions," a U.S. Air Force official said. "We want to send them back on mission after mission. TRW is conducting a number of projects at Kirtland [AFB, N.M., an Air Force Research Laboratory facility]. They're making good headway, but they can't squirt sufficient energy at long ranges. That's why we need UCAVs. With precision navigation, you can put a DE [directed-energy] payload within 50 ft. of a geographic point so that you can shoot a burst of HPM at the right time and right place."

HPM and lasers are the primary directed-energy weapons available to the military, but on the horizon is a third called a plasma weapon. A plasma packet has mass, moves through space and has been compared with a bolt of lightning. It is slower than a laser beam or HPM spike, but it can cause much more physical damage.

Aviation Week & Space Technology, 5. August 2002

See also:
aviation now

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