The Starfish Prime nuclear test of 1962 is a good starting point for the story of what the Chinese strategic nuclear weapon capabilities are building up for. In fact one of the potential consequences of their new weapon were first outlined with the 1962 high altitude nuclear test as outlined in this excerpt from Discover magazine on July 9, 2012:
But the effects were far more than a simple light show. When the bomb detonated, those electrons underwent incredible acceleration. When that happens they create a brief but extremely powerful magnetic field. This is called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The strength of the pulse was so huge that it affected the flow of electricity on the Earth hundreds of kilometers away! In Hawaii it blew out hundreds of streetlights, and caused widespread telephone outages. Other effects included electrical surges on airplanes and radio blackouts.
The EMP had been predicted by scientists, but the Starfish Prime pulse was far larger than expected. And there was another effect that hadn’t been predicted accurately. Many of the electrons from the blast didn’t fall down into the Earth’s atmosphere, but instead lingered in space for months, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field, creating an artificial radiation belt high above our planet’s surface.
When a high-speed electron hits a satellite, it can generate a sort-of miniature EMP. The details are complex, but the net effect is that these electrons can zap satellites and damage their electronics. The pulse of electrons from the Starfish Prime detonation damaged at least six satellites (including one Soviet bird), all of which eventually failed due to the blast. Other satellite failures at the time may be linked to the explosion as well.
The overall effect shocked scientists and engineers. They had expected something much smaller, not nearly the level that actually occurred. Because of this, later high-altitude nuclear tests made by the US as part of Operation Fishbowl were designed to have a much lower yield. Although the explosion energies are still classified, it’s estimated they ranged from a few dozen to a few hundred kilotons, a fraction of the 1.4 megaton Starfish Prime explosion.
Fast forward to this stunning story from The Financial Times yesterday:
China tests new space capability with hypersonic missile
The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised.
The test has raised new questions about why the US often underestimated China’s military modernisation.
“We have no idea how they did this,” said a fourth person.
In other words while our inept military and intelligence agencies were screwing up the Afghanistan withdrawal, China test deployed a potential game changing weapon. Even though the weapon missed it’s target in the Chinese desert by about 24 kilometers, that is a minor detail which can be corrected with further testing.
The bigger issue is that this is a first strike weapon which can penetrate any existing or planned NORAD defensive screens and impact the United States mainland without warning.
The problem for most Americans is that they are clueless as how to survive a wave of EMP attacks which destroys the electrical grid for over a decade. This leaves our nation vulnerable to a new unconventional type of warfare where our large capital ships and bloated tech dependent military are completely neutered, leaving the Chinese and other forces free to settle old scores and occupy regions they hesitated to invade due to a strong United States.
Elections do indeed have consequences and America might pay for decades of sloth and laziness at the ballot box in exchange for the short term luxury of being a modern day Rome.