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USAF nominates JASSM missile to host new computer-killing weapon

The head of the Air Force Research Laboratory has nominated Lockheed Martin’s stealthy, long-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER) as the optimal air vehicle to carry a new computer-killing electronic attack payload known as CHAMP, or Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project.

Major general Thomas Masiello says the technology, which fries electronic equipment with bursts of high-power microwave energy, is mature and will be miniaturised to suite the JASSM-ER.

“That’s an operational system already in our tactical air force, and that is really what will make us more operationally relevant,” Masiello said of the JASSM-ER at a science and technology exposition at the Pentagon on 14 May. “Both the major commands and the combatant commands are very interested in that [CHAMP] weapon system. It’s a non-kinetic effect.”

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The electronic warfare payload was jointly developed by the laboratory and Boeing using critical components produced by Raytheon. The weapon was flight tested in 2012 on an AGM-86 Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile – an air vehicle tagged for retirement and demilitarisation.

Some US lawmakers have questioned why it has taken the air force so long to field CHAMP, and even passed legislation ordering the air force to produce a tactical system by 2016. “This is not a limitation on technology, authority or funding,” said congressman Richard Nugent at a recent congressional hearing.

The research laboratory tested the counter-electronics device on the cruise missile at a military test range in Utah, where it successfully shut down a room full of computers. The effect similar to the electromagnetic pulse from a high-altitude nuclear explosion.

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