Boeing Conducts First Tests of High Power Microwave (HPM) Missile

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During the CHAMP test the missile was pointed at a set of simulated targets, confirming that the missile could be controlled and timed while using a High-powered Microwave (HPM) system against multiple targets and locations. Photo: artist concept of the CHAMP weapon

The Boeing Company has successfully completed the first flight test of a counter-electronics missile carrying a high power microwave (HPM) payload designed to zap enemy electronic system. The program called Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) is run by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The missile’s first flight test was conducted earlier this year at the Utah Test and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base. the tests did not include a live HPM payload. Under the three-year $38 million contract Boeing will provide five missiles, two of which will be integrated with HPM payloads provided by Ktech.

During the CHAMP test the missile was pointed at a set of simulated targets, confirming that the missile could be controlled and timed while using a High-powered Microwave (HPM) system against multiple targets and locations. Photo: artist concept of the CHAMP weapon

CHAMP is a nonlethal alternative to kinetic weapons that neutralizes electronic targets. It would allow the military to focus on these targets while minimizing or totally eliminating physical collateral damage. (Collateral damage to civilian electronic equipment could be excessive, depending on the target location, targeted spectrum bands and employment techniques). CHAMP is considered a cost effective alternative to current kinetic (explosive) weapons, that cannot penetrate hidden, underground targets. The HPM pulse can penetrate through metal elements leading into underground command centers, to damage and even destroy sensitive components in computers, power supplies or communications gear associated with the targeted systems.

During the test the missile was pointed at a set of simulated targets, confirming that the missile could be controlled and timed while using a High-powered Microwave (HPM) system against multiple targets and locations. The software used was identical to the software required for a vehicle with a fully integrated HPM system on board.

“It was as close to the real thing as we could get for this test,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. “This demonstration, which brings together the Air Force Research Laboratory’s directed energy technology and Boeing’s missile design, sets the stage for a new breed of nonlethal but highly effective weapon systems.”

For a future HPM weapon USAF planners are looking at a quick recharging payload device capable of delivering aimable multiple HPM bursts at different targets, a series of targets. Such payloads could be carried by cruise missiles or loitering platforms to maximize effect and suppression of enemy air defenses, command and control networks and national infrastructure, delivering military devastating effect at no collateral damage.

Boeing is developing CHAMP under a the three-year, $38 million joint capability technology demonstration program that includes ground and flight demonstrations that focus on technology integration risk reduction and military utility. Boeing received the contract in April 2009. As the prime contractor, airborne platform provider and system integrator. Ktech Corp. of Albuquerque, N.M. supplies the HPM source while Sandia National Laboratories provides the pulse power system under a separate contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory.