BLACK SWAN: ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE
Chaos From Above
An electromagnetic pulse
event triggered by the
detonation of a low-yield
nuclear device in Earth’s
economic and societal chaos.
By Dan Reynolds
A low-yield nuclear device is detonated in the atmosphere above the United States. It produces ground-induced
currents that would wipe out 70 percent of the country’s electrical grid.
SCENARIO: The vessel that seeks to undo
America arrives in the teeth of a storm.
The 4,000-ton Indonesian freighter Pandawas
Viper sails towards California in December 2017.
It is shepherded toward North America by a
fierce Pacific winter storm, a so-called “Pineapple
Express,” boasting 15-foot waves and winds
topping 70 mph.
Normally, Pandawas Viper carries cargo
containers. This time she harbors a much more
Unbeknownst to U.S. defense and intelligence
officials, the Viper carries a single nuclear weapon,
There it interacts with atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field to produce
an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which radiates down to Earth, creating
additional electric or ground-induced currents.
The operative’s aim is perfect. With a charge of hundreds and in some cases
thousands of volts, the GICs cause severe physical damage to all unprotected
electronics and transformers. Microchips operate in the range of 1.5 to 5 volts and
thus are obliterated by the billions.
As a result, the current created by the blast knocks out 70 percent of the
nation’s grid. What began as an overhead flash of light plunges much of the nation
The first indication for most people
that there is a problem is that their
trusty cellphones can do no more than
perform calculations, tell them the time
or play their favorite tunes.
As minutes turn to hours,
however, people realize that they’ve
got much bigger concerns on their
hands. Critical infrastructure for
transportation and communications
ceases. Telecommunication breakdowns
mean that fire and police services are
For the alone, the elderly and the
“Depending on the industries
and the locations that are
affected, it could really change
the marketplace, insurers and
reinsurers as well,”
—Lou Gritzo, a vice president and manager of
research at FM Global
• The economic costs of an EMP
attack would be above $1 trillion.
• Nuclear deterrence and investing
in infrastructure are feasible ways
to lessen the probability of massive
damage from an EMP attack.
• Three hundred transformers
would be affected in an EMP attack
that impacted the entire U.S.
loaded onto a naval surface-to-air missile, or SAM, concealed below deck.
The warhead has an involved history. It was smuggled out of Kyrgyzstan in
1997, eventually finding its way into the hands of Islamic militants in Indonesia
that are loosely affiliated with ISIS.
Even for these ambitious and murderous militants, outfitting a freighter with a
nuclear device in secrecy and equipping it to sail to North America in the hopes of
firing its deadly payload is quite an undertaking.
Close to $2 million in bribes and other considerations are paid out to ensure
that the Pandawas Viper sets sail for America unmolested, her cargo a secret held
by less than two dozen extremist Islamic soldiers.
The storm is a perfect cover.
Officials along the West Coast busy themselves tracking the storm, doing what
they think is the right thing by warning residents about flooding and landslides,
and securing ports against storm-related damage.
No one gives a second thought to the freighter flying Indonesian colors
making its way toward the Port of Long Beach, as it apparently should be.
It’s only at two in the morning on Sunday, December 22, that an alert Port of
San Diego administrator charged with monitoring ocean-going cargo traffic sees
something that causes him to do a double take.
GPS tracking information indicates to him that the Pandawas Viper is not
heading to Long Beach, as indicated on its digital shipping logs, but is veering
toward Baja, Calif.
Were it to keep its present course, it would arrive at Tijuana, Mexico.
The port administrator dutifully notifies the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Indonesian freighter Pandawas Viper off course, possibly storm-related
navigational difficulties,” he emails on a secure digital communication channel
operated by the port and the Coast Guard.
“Monitor and alert as necessary,” his message, including the ship’s current
In turn, a communications officer in the Coast Guard’s Alameda, Calif. offices
dutifully alerts members of the Coast Guard’s Pacific basin security team. She’s
done her job but she’s about an hour late.
At 3: 15 am Pacific time on December 22, the deck on the Pandawas Viper
opens and the naval surface-to-air missile, operated remotely by a militant
operative in Jakarta, is let loose.
It’s headed not for Los Angeles or San Diego, but rather Earth’s atmosphere,
where it detonates about 50 miles above the surface.