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The US Air Force is looking to acquire a missile that can quite literally fry electronics. The USAF is paying $4.8 million to equip two cruise missiles with high-powered microwave energy weapons. The intent is to create cruise missiles that can send out powerful pulses of microwave energy to short and fry any electronic equipment in their way.

The idea comes from nuclear weapons. Or more specifically, the electromagnetic pulse emitted by a nuclear blast. Each nuclear explosion, in addition to the usual effects we’re familiar with from video footage, emits tremendous and concentrated amounts of electromagnetic energy. The pulses, or EMPs, travel through the atmosphere and destroy all electronic equipment they come into contact with, especially solid-state electronics like computer chips.

Such a weapon, that can destroy electronics, and thus much of the fighting capacity of a modern army, without causing the damage of a regular bomb or endangering lives, has incredibly tactical advantages.

“Our real goal is to take what we learnt in CHAMP and apply it to the next weapon,” said Air Combat Command chief Gen Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle. “We have kept some, it’s a very small number, so we have some capability with it now. Our intent is to move that to the next weapon, a more advanced weapon, and continue to modernise it.”

Flightglobal reports that defence contractor Raytheon, who acquired “directed energy firm Ktech in 2011,” will be using the technology for the two cruise missiles. This move comes as a first step of the Counter-electronics High-power microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), and will be based on data gathered since Ktech and Boeing demonstrated the viability of the technology in 2012.

Two refurbished subsonic AGM-86 air-launched missiles have been dedicated to the task, Donald Sullivan and Peter Duselis of Raytheon Missile Systems Ktech told Flightglobal in an interview.