South Korea is reported to have developed a blackout bomb to be used against North Korea in the event of a conflict. The bomb however is nothing new as it already exists with the armed forces of countries like the United States. The weapon is also known as the ‘graphite filament’ bomb as it is the key lethal ingredient. The announcement of the weapon comes at a time when tensions are high in the region due to North Korea’s highly provocative missile and nuclear testing activities. Kim Jong Un, the country’s dictator has been claiming for a while now that he will soon have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons on the US mainland with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM).
However, South Korea is in real danger as Pyongyang already has the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead on any of its cities. Moreover, the highly developed capital Seoul is within striking distance of DPRK’s eleven thousand artillery units deployed along the 38th parallel and could play havoc in a matter of minutes. South Korea is steadily improving its military capability to meet the growing threat. The blackout bomb is a lethal weapon against certain targets like electric power grids and transmission lines.
How does the bomb work?
The bomb contains fine graphite filament fillings which is spread on the target area upon detonation. When this dispersal happens over an electric grid, the highly conductive filaments cause electric short circuit thereby breaking the power lines resulting in a power outage in that grid.
This weapon is primarily used to enable night bombing runs by aircraft. Modern military aircraft is capable of doing night bombing sorties with the help of infrared (IR) devices, laser and IR target designators. However, the IR device effectiveness is reduced when there is too much radiation from the visible region of the spectrum i.e. too much light. Usually, the enemy state switches ‘On’ all the electric lights in the cities and other vital target areas to degrade the efficiency of these night bombing devices. One could have observed this tactic during the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq lit up major cities and potential targets sites with electric lights in the night in an attempt to prevent night bombing by the US Air Force and Navy.
This is when the US employed the Blackout bomb using the tomahawk missiles and other aircraft to put out the power grid creating an electric blackout. Most of the Tomahawks fired by the US B-1 b and B-52 bombers during the initial stages of the conflict contained graphite filament munitions. Once the electric grids were suppressed, other aircraft conducted precision night bombing raids on leadership and other air defence targets in Baghdad and other places. The US used the BLU-114/B for such missions and the South Korean bomb could be similar to this weapon.
This weapon will likely be used against the power grid in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang to enable precision night strikes on political and military leadership targets like command centres. But as opposed to the popular belief, the graphite filament bomb will not be effective against air defence targets as those systems are provided with backup power units. Further, mobile SAM units do not depend on the power grids as they operate with the help of mobile power generation and storage units.