If the war of the future is a cyberwar, it will need weapons with a specific anti-computer focus. While bullets and bombs can certainly destroy computers, Congress is championing an old missile for the U.S. Air Force’s cyber mission. Named the “Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project,” or CHAMP, it’s an anti-computer missile canceled in 2012 that might just be brought back to life.
CHAMP is a missile that uses microwaves to knock out electronics near where it hits, completely shutting down the cyber infrastructure of an area while leaving people and buildings unharmed. CHAMP blasts targeted bursts from a microwave emitter, frying local electronics. The effective range is not clear, but CHAMP appears to require some degree of proximity. The project began in 2009, and went as far as being tested in the Utah desert in 2012. But after that successful test, the program stalled.
Late in 2013, Congress included a deadline for CHAMP in their 2014 defense budget authorization, asking for a deliverable weapon by 2016 and giving it $10 million in additional funding. At a hearing last week, Florida Representative Richard Nugent asked a panel of experts before the House Armed Services Committee about converting surplus cruise missiles to CHAMP-carrying weapons.
“At this point in time, the Air Force is still looking at the technology and where the right point is to transition it," responded David Walker, the Air Force's deputy assistant secretary of the for science, technology, and engineering.
It’s unlikely that CHAMP will meet its 2016 deadline, but with increased congressional pressure, the Air Force may get closer to having the anti-computer missile of its dreams.