The SPND EMP-ire strikes back
Anyone with a passing interest in science fiction has probably heard of an electromagnetic pulse (پالس الکترومغناطیسی), or EMP. The US, Russia and China have experimented with EMP technology before, and the North Koreans might be having a go as well. Indeed EMPs pop up all over the place, including in The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, Ocean’s Eleven and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The Divine Unit and the Death Ray. To us this doesn’t put EMP research beyond the realms of speculation.
In March a claim emerged that a secret Iranian military handbook contained details that Iran was planning a nuclear EMP attack against the American national grid. The article notes that in order to pull this off, Iran would need a nuclear weapon and a pretty good long-range delivery system. Neither of which Iran currently has. But if Iran fitted an EMP payload onto the medium-range Shahab-3 or a surface-to-surface missile (SSM), for example, this would enable the regime to knock out an adversary’s communications or electronics equipment, giving the ensuing attack the element of surprise.
It’s hard out here for a pEMP
In 2012, a YouTube video exposed AMAD’s effort to develop an EMP weapon that included an implosion mechanism, which was essentially a cover for nuclear weapons research. This project was run by some of our favourite weaponization folks, including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Fereidun Abbasi Davani. And there’s the issue, folks – the expertise and infrastructure needed to develop an EMP weapon shares similarities with what you would need for nuclear weapons development.
If EMP research had been running since AMAD, it makes sense that SPND would have an electromagnetic lab that is capable of handling the required work perhaps based in the SPND’s High Voltage Group. And although conventional R&D would take place, the infrastructure required for EMP is similar to what would be needed to conduct R&D and testing on nuclear weapons components.
Furthermore, EMP research would contribute to what we all know is SPND’s long-term effort to maintain sensitive nuclear weapons-related know-how; keeping the experts fresh, so to speak. For example, SPND’s effort to develop an EMP-armed SSM would assist in the advancement of expertise and capabilities to equip an SSM with a nuclear warhead. There are similarities in the production and processing of explosives, and there are also in the calculations and techniques needed to develop the initiation system and test the device.
Although Iran probably doesn't consider that EMP research breaches the nuclear agreement with the P5+1, the fact remains that some of the requirements for EMP weapons are similar to the nuts and bolts of nuclear weapons - especially when you get to sensitive bits around high explosive detonation characterisation.
That was a very roundabout way of saying that it makes little sense to allow Iran, a state with a definite sneaky desire to develop nuclear weapons, to conduct research on something that is technologically similar to a nuclear weapon and also produces one of the most damaging effects of a nuclear weapon. Handing SPND the resources and technology to develop an EMP weapon that can temporarily fry some electronics but telling them they can’t stray into the nuclear weaponization aspects of that work would be like handing a flamethrower to a pyromaniac and telling them they’re only allowed to crisp the top of a crème brulée.
It’s not that Redline is sceptical or pessimistic, but it’s a safe bet that SPND wouldn’t build an EMP weapon so they can knock out the power to Las Vegas and rob The Bellagio, Ocean’s Eleven style…