Pentagon eyes advanced EMP grenades

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Grenades capable of producing an electromagnetic pulse have long been featured in genre games, movies and books.

And now the US Army has decided that it wants to bring electromagnetic pulse grenades out of the realm of science fiction into the real world in the form of a device designed to destroy insurgent bombs.

Specifically, the military envisions High Power Microwave (HPM) grenades capable of generating an electromagnetic pulse aimed at destroying electronics used to activate roadside homemade bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

If the Pentagon was actually able to design and manufacture such a weapon, it would significantly decrease the danger associated with defusing roadside bombs and IEDs. Currently, the Pentagon relies on specially trained personnel to defuse bombs, along with robots and vehicle mounted jammers.

As such, the Army has put out a request for companies to participate in the project, which envisions an EMP grenade  small and light enough for an individual soldier to carry and deploy. The military specifically wants prototypes small enough to be hurled by a human hand or robot. Other sizes include 40 mm grenades, RPGs, along with Stinger, Hydra and Javelin missile sized systems.

According to scientists and researchers working on the project, an EMP grenade wouldn't necessarily have to be explosive. To be sure, a non-explosive grenade could use "pulse compression" to blast a very short but fierce electrical pulse while compressing intellectual current and voltage - making the pulse stronger. However, non-explosive systems tend to be large and expensive.

Clearly, the project faces some serious challenges. Most notably, it remains unclear if the US military would be able to protect its own electrical devices from the pulse.