EMP Bomb Test: STARFISH PRIME Weapons Test (1962)

The STARFISH PRIME Weapons Test in 1962 involved firing a 1.4 megaton nuke 250 miles above the Pacific. Electromagnetic surges traveled as far as Hawaii, about 900 miles away, causing damage to some telephone company equipment, making streetlights flicker, and garage doors open and close by themselves. There were no power outages, phone lines did not fail, and there was no radio interference throughout the event.

What’s an EMP?

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic radiation that can come from a variety of sources, including the Sun or the detonation of a nuclear device at an extremely high altitude.

What is a nuclear EMP?

A nuclear EMP is an abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation resulting from a nuclear explosion. The resulting rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.

What is an EMP bomb?

Nuclear physicist Dr. Yousaf Butt explains it as follows:

“EMPs affect everything in line-of-sight of the nuclear blast. An EMP bomb is a nuclear device detonated in the space above a targeted area. EMPs created from the blast affect everything in line-of-sight from the nuclear blast.”

“For example, a blast 60 miles up can affect a 700-mile radius on Earth. Thanks to Earth’s magnetic field, however, a safe space is created almost directly below the blast that is unaffected by any of the pulses created.

(Dr. Yousaf Butt is nuclear physicist, a senior advisor to the British American Security Information Council and director at the Cultural Intelligence Institute.)

What damage can it do?

An EMP bomb detonates high above Earth and so does not cause direct casualties. Rather, its destructive power lies in its ability to interfere, disrupt, and damage electronic equipment, for example, power grids disrupted, cars and planes lose power, computer systems crash, facilities like hospitals lose emergency backup power.

According to Butt, there are three types of EMPs: E1, E2, E3. Each type affects electrical systems in different ways.

  • E1 affects local antennas, short cable runs, equipment inside buildings, integrated circuits, sensors, communication systems, protective systems, and computers
  • E2 is similar to a lightning strike (but not as damaging as we know how to deal with it); it affects longer conductive lines, vertical antenna towers, and aircraft with trailing wire antennas
  • E3 affects power lines and long communications lines like undersea and underground cables, wreaking havoc on commercial power and landlines.

The E1 and E3 EMPs would damage the technology we’ve come to depend on. Post-blast, generators might still provide power, but for the most, there would be no access to electricity, which could range from extremely inconvenient or devastating.

How accurate is an EMP bomb?

An EMP bomb requires less accuracy to be effective. As long as it detonates above its target, it would be effective. High-altitude ICBMs are difficult to stop. The ground-based midcourse defense missile system can reach into space.

Where is the safest place to be?  

Thanks to Earth’s magnetic field, a safe space is created almost directly below the blast that is unaffected by any of the pulses created.

See also “Could an intense CME-caused, geomagnetic storm or EMP bomb zap us right back to the Stone Age?

See also “Are you prepared for a Black Sky Event? What is a Black Sky Event?

Black Sky Events are defined as “catastrophic occurrences caused by humans, Nature, or outside influences that can bring society to its knees.”

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