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Four days before Halloween, on Sunday morning, October 27, 2013, terrorists in Mexico’s Michoacan state blacked out the electric grid, leaving some 420,000 powerless and thirteen dead. People get trapped in elevators and become virtual prisoners in their high-rise apartment buildings.
One of the heroes of the docudrama, a survivalist who is prepared for anything and does everything right, except for one seemingly small and humane mistake, is about to have his throat cut, when electric power, and civilization, suddenly returns on day 10. National Geographic is to be applauded for American Blackout which is essentially a training film to educate the American people about the very real threat posed to their lives by a cyber attack on the electric grid. In real life, terrorists or rogue states would probably not limit their attack on the nation’s electric grid to computer viruses or hacking, as implied in the docudrama.
Solar flares, technically called coronal mass ejections, regularly collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere and generate geomagnetic storms that can damage electric grids by means of a natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP). In 1989 a geomagnetic storm, called the Hydro-Quebec Storm, blacked out eastern Canada for a day, causing billions of dollars in economic losses. The Congressional EMP Commission and National Academy of Sciences warns that, every century or so, the Sun hits the Earth with a coronal mass ejection of such power that it generates a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event. Electricity was still a novelty in 1859, and in those horse and buggy days not vital to survival of civilization. Indeed, if the 1921 Railroad Storm recurred today–a geomagnetic storm estimated to be only one-tenth as powerful as the Carrington Event–the National Academy of Sciences calculates that it could cause an American Blackout lasting, not 10 days, but 4-10 years. It is a scientific consensus that recurrence of a Carrington-class geomagnetic super-storm is inevitable. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is a dimension of the cyber threat that is not usually considered a cyber threat in Western doctrine, but is in the playbooks for an Information Warfare Operation of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. It is vitally important that we understand that a nuclear EMP attack is part of cyber and information warfare operations as conceived by our potential adversaries. Our cyber and information warfare doctrines are dangerously blind to the likelihood that a potential adversary making an all-out information warfare campaign designed to cripple the U.S.
The assessment that nuclear EMP attack is included in the cyber and information warfare doctrine of potential adversaries, and the effects of an EMP attack described here, are based on the work of the Congressional EMP Commission that analyzed this threat for nearly a decade (2001-2008).
A nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude, above 30 kilometers, will generate an electromagnetic pulse that can be likened to a super-energetic radio wave, more powerful than lightning, that can destroy and disrupt electronics across a broad geographic area, from the line of sight from the high-altitude detonation to the horizon. For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers would project an EMP field with a radius on the ground of about 600 kilometers, that could cover all the New England States, New York and Pennsylvania, damaging electronics across this entire region, including electronics on aircraft flying across the region at the time of the EMP attack.


The blackout and EMP damage beyond the electric grid in other systems would collapse all the other critical infrastructures–communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–that sustain modern civilization and the lives of millions. A more ambitious EMP attack could use a freighter to launch a medium-range missile from the Gulf of Mexico, to detonate a nuclear warhead over the geographic center of the United States at an altitude of 400-500 kilometers.  The EMP field would extend to a radius of  at least 2,200 kilometers on the ground, covering all of the contiguous 48 United States, causing a nationwide blackout and collapse of the critical infrastructures everywhere. North Korea appears to be attempting to implement the information warfare doctrine described above by developing a long range missile capable of making a catastrophic nuclear EMP attack on the United States.  In December 2012, North Korea demonstrated the capability to launch a satellite on a polar orbit circling the Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometers. An altitude of 500 kilometers would be ideal for making an EMP attack that places the field over the entire contiguous 48 United States, using an inaccurate satellite warhead for delivery, likely to miss its horizontal aimpoint over the geographic center of the U.S.
The United States has no Ballistic Missile Early Warning (BMEW) radars or missile interceptors facing south.  We might not even see the attack coming.
The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) as it was known in the West, was a Soviet innovation intended to exploit the limitations of U.S. According to several press reports, South Korean military intelligence concluded independently of the EMP Commission that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop a Super-EMP nuclear warhead.  In 2012, a military commentator for the People’s Republic of China stated that North Korea has Super-EMP nuclear warheads. Technically, it is important to understand that surge arrestors and other hardware designed to protect against EMP can also protect against the worst-case cyber scenarios that, for example, envision computer viruses collapsing the national power grid.  For example, surge arrestors that protect Extra High Voltage transformers from EMP can also protect transformers from  damaging electrical surges caused by a computer virus that manipulates the grid Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition Systems (SCADAS). If you're unsure of anything please refer to our help guides or contact us for anything else you need.
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Gasoline is rationed to the military and hospitals, so the average American has no transportation–except for his legs.
If there is any fault or unrealism in the docudrama, it is that the blackout lasts only 10 days, and recovery is achieved so quickly. They would also use other more destructive means–that could cause a protracted national blackout lasting months or years. Regardless of how one weighs the threat to the national grid from terrorists or rogue states–the Sun will, sooner or later, hurl toward the Earth a geomagnetic super-storm, with catastrophic consequences for the national electric grid. Geomagnetic storms happen every year and normally affect nations at high northern latitudes, such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. However, if a Carrington Event recurred today, it would crash electric grids and critical infrastructures worldwide, and put at risk the lives of billions. These potential adversaries in their military doctrines include as part of cyber warfare a wide spectrum of operations beyond computer viruses, including sabotage and kinetic attacks, up to and including nuclear EMP attack.


Our cyber doctrine must be designed to deter and defeat the cyber doctrines of our potential adversaries by anticipating how they plan to attack us–but our doctrine currently does not. The EMP attack would blackout at least the regional electric grid, and probably the entire Eastern Grid that generates 70 percent of U.S. East Coast at an altitude of 30 kilometers, could be achieved by lofting the warhead with a meteorological balloon.
Therefore, China should focus on measures to counter computer viruses, nuclear electromagnetic pulse…and quickly achieve breakthroughs in those technologies in order to equip China without delay with equivalent deterrence that will enable it to stand up to the military powers in the information age and neutralize and check the deterrence of Western powers, including the United States. Department of Defense has understood for 50 years how to protect military systems from EMP.  Private vendors specializing in EMP protection are standing by with faraday cages, surge arrestors, blocking devices and other technology, ready to protect the national electric grid. James Woolsey is former Director of Central Intelligence and Co-Chair of the EMP Coalition; Dr.
Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Food and water become so scarce that there is a life and death struggle over a can of peaches. Government studies independently arrived at similar conclusions, and represent collectively a scientific and strategic consensus that nuclear EMP attack upon the United States is an existential threat. The idea behind FOBS was that a large thermonuclear warhead would be inserted into a steeply inclined low altitude polar orbit, such that it would approach CONUS from any direction, but primarily from the southern hemisphere, and following a programmed braking maneuver, re-enter from a direction which was not covered by BMEW radars.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) estimates that EMP protection of the national grid would increase the electric bill of the average rate payer by 20 cents annually. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.
Before day 10 of the blackout, society starts breaking down into anarchy as gangs and vigilante groups run wild. So powerful was the EMP that it penetrated miles down through the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and burned out the just laid telegraph cable linking North America to Europe.



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