Jeffrey LewisNew Triad 4: ChiCom EMP Threat?

During this morning’s panel on Nuclear Weapons and the New Triad, former Chairman of the Defense Science Board John Foster warned of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats, including:

ChiCOMs, in the context of the 7th Fleet’s possible defense of Taiwan.

I’ve not see a lot about this subject, although the subject apparently came up in some Congressional testimony (which I have not seen released, but is quoted at length in a CRS report by Ronald O‚ÄôRourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress).

How Hard Are You?

The basic concern is that the Navy’s ships are not hard enough—that is, not adequately hardened against the electromagnetic pulse generated by a Chinese nuclear weapon.

Hold aside, for a moment, China’s current nuclear strategy—which comprises a “no first use” pledge and a small arsenal structured and trained for retaliation—and the dated reference to “ChicComs.”

The Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Nuclear Weapon Effects (NWE) Test, Evaluation and Simulation examined US Navy EMP hardening procedures within the context of the “providing a comprehensive evaluation of current and future Department of Defense (DoD) processes for assuring successful operation in nuclear environments.”

While the DSB found the “directives and instructions regarding nuclear survivability in the Navy are out of date … critical systems within the Navy continue to maintain nuclear survivability requirements.”

Surface combatants continue to have nuclear survivability
requirements levied (although at lower levels than previously required). However, nuclear survivability validation is performed primarily through engineering analysis rather than testing.

Aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers are still required to meet the highest standards for hardening. Classification seems to prevent a detailed discussion of just how hard are US Navy ships, but were I a Chinese officer contemplating a nuclear use against a a CVBG … well, I probably just try to hit them with it.


  1. Tim

    Hitting them with it would be smart, after all, collateral damage would be an issue. Any EMP that would affect a carrier group defending Taiwan would certainly affect Taiwan itself, and what’s the use of capturing Taiwan if you’ve destroyed it’s high tech infrastructure??