Letter Re: Counting the Potential EMP Attack Casualties

Dear Jim:
Your site is excellent. It is on my list of daily reading. Your book is also excellent. I’ve also taken the 10 Cent Challenge.

Under scenarios you mention minimal deaths in an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. You posit the EMP would disable flight controls. Published information indicates that 3,624 domestic commercial flights were airborne during the attacks on 9/11/01. If that number is relatively accurate and it is multiplied by 267 (average) passengers per plane (not including flight crews) you get 967,608.

If a number of these aircraft are in/near terminal control areas (cities), wouldn’t their ensuing impacts add to the death toll?

Newark Airport sits next to the New Jersey Turnpike and when the wind is out of the north the approach takes flights over the 12 lanes of a very busy highway. Any aircraft losing control and landing/crashing short of the runway would create a massive disaster. There are also rail yards and refineries nearby.

Using a base number of 967,608 and adding ground losses appear to produce a significant number of casualties in your scenario. Are these observations realistic? – JH

JWR Replies: When I referred to “minimal” casualties with high altitude EMP-tailored bombs, I meant that in comparison to ground bursts in cities, which could cause many millions of deaths.

Regarding your 967,608 figure, that would only be accurate if there were multiple devices detonated simultaneously at very high altitude and there were overlapping coast to coast “footprints” of EMP. The potential line-of-sight range of EMP–and coincident “coupling” through linear metal objects–has been previously discussed in SurvivalBlog.