The U.S. Air Force concerned about the capability of its equipment to withstand the effects of an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.
EMPs are intense bursts of electromagnetic energy which can result from a high-altitude nuclear explosion. In the event of war, such blasts could be used to inflict damage on electrical and electronic systems of opposing countries.
Currently, the U.S Air Force working to withstand a potential electromagnetic attack. The service conducted first electromagnetic pulse hardness testing onto B-52H Stratofortress bomber at Tinker Air Force Base is part of the United States Air Force’s efforts to safeguard aircraft from potential attacks.
Conducted at Tinker’s Compass Rose Test Facility, the electromagnetic tests represent a major milestone for the program.
According to Maj. Avery Snyder, Electromagnetic Pulse Program lead, increasing threats from around the world make these type tests necessary in the interest of national security.
“We applaud the B-52H program office and other supporting organizations for making this vital test possible,” he said.
The Air Force EMP Program conducts oversight through Air Force Global Strike Command and execution through the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, while working with other commands and various system program offices.
With an increased emphasis through Executive Order, National Security Strategy, National Defense Authorization Act and other national level guidance on the possible threat of potential adversaries to take further interest in EMP technology, as well as natural threats like geomagnetic storms, the program has taken steps to advance EMP testing to identify and address those potential risks in advance.
The test utilizes an antenna device that sends electromagnetic energy through the aircraft.
“What we’re verifying is how the aircraft reacts in response to an electromagnetic pulse,” said Jiby Varughese, section chief with the 555th Software Engineering Squadron. “What happens to the aircraft, how does it perform, is there any damage to the electrical components? That’s what we’re testing here.”
The team measures the reaction at hundreds of different test points on the aircraft to determine energy absorption locations and levels at key test points.
While the tests currently require extensive external support, Varughese said AFGSC and the AFNWC are investing millions of dollars into upgrades at Tinker AFB to provide the capability for the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex to perform these tests at a dedicated facility.