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"E-BOMB," FOR REAL?

ebomb.gifOn the eve of the Iraq invasion, it was being hailed as America's next "wonder weapon." The "e-bomb" -- a munition using high-powered microwaves to fry circuits and computers -- was about to be dropped on Baghdad, we were told. And the press could hardly keep from quivering at the thought of the big, electromagnetic strike, which would sizzle everything from anti-aircraft radars to Iraqi phone systems. But then... well, what happened next is unclear. Some say a prototype e-bomb was used to knock out Saddam's broadcast facilities. Others aren't so sure.Now, Aviation Week reports, there are a pair of efforts underway at the Pentagon to use high-powered microwaves -- the core of the e-bomb -- for real.The German manufacturer Diehl is "supplying U.S. forces in Iraq with 10 'prototype' HPM [high-powered microwave] devices in trials, where they will be used for convoy protection, according to a company source. They will be employed to jam detonation commands for improvised explosive devices."Meanwhile, the American military is looking at a British program to pack cruise missiles with HPM warheads. American tests of the project -- code-named Virus -- "will likely be carried out at [Naval Air System Command's] China Lake, Calif. range against a target set of foreign systems, including radars and weaponry."The Pentagon won't immediately make a purchase based on the tests, Aviation Week says. But it could "trigger a process resulting in a purchase." The Defense Department is also looking to load HPMs onto other weapons, including the satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, used so often in the early days of the Iraq war.

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