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Modern Warfare Game Changer: Boeing's CHAMP Missile Knocks Out Electronic Systems

Boeing has successfully tested a missile capable of knocking out electronic systems without blowing anything up or injuring anyone.

Boeing CHAMP MissileCHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project, is a non-lethal missile capable of disabling enemy electronic systems without little to no collateral damage, Boeing said in a statement on Monday. The defense contractor confirmed that it conducted a successful test on Oct. 16 of the CHAMP missile on the Utah Test and Training range along with members from the United States Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate.

During the test, CHAMP approached its first target and fired hi-power microwaves into a two-story building containing rows of personal computers and other electronic systems. Almost immediately after the missile flew over the building, every piece of electronic equipment inside went dark. The television cameras set up inside to record the test also were affected, Boeing said.

"Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building," Boeing wrote on its site.

Boeing tested CHAMP against seven targets over the course of one hour and it knocked out the electrical system in each building. The goal of CHAMP is to create a missile that can remotely paralyze electronic systems with minimal collateral damage. CHAMP is also designed to be very targeted so that only computers inside a specific building are affected, and not causing damage over a wider area.

There is a "real need" for a weapon capable of defeating a target without causing collateral damage to people and structures, Boeing said.

Boeing's research team is currently analyzing data and telemetry from the test. CHAMP marks a "new era in modern-day warfare," said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. This kind of technology may be used to disable an enemy's electronic and data systems before the ground troops or aircraft arrive on the scene, Coleman explained.

"Today we turned science fiction into science fact," Coleman added.

A video demonstrating how CHAMP works is embedded below.

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Fahmida Y. Rashid is a Senior Contributing Writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.