Scientists Believe US Embassy Staff and CIA Officers Were Hit With High-Power Microwaves – Here’s How the Weapons Work

US Air Force Microwave Weapon

This U.S. Air Force microwave weapon is designed to knock down drones by frying their electronics. Credit: AFRL Directed Energy Directorate

The mystery ailment that has afflicted U.S. embassy staff and CIA officers off and on over the last four years in Cuba, China, Russia and other countries appears to have been caused by high-power microwaves, according to a report released by the National Academies. A committee of 19 experts in medicine and other fields concluded that directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy is the “most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, dubbed Havana syndrome.

The report doesn’t clear up who targeted the embassies or why they were targeted. But the technology behind the suspected weapons is well understood and dates back to the Cold War arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. High-power microwave weapons are generally designed to disable electronic equipment. But as the Havana syndrome reports show, these pulses of energy can harm people, as well.

As an electrical and computer engineer who designs and builds sources of high-power microwaves, I have spent decades studying the physics of these sources, including work with the U.S. Department of Defense. Directed energy microwave weapons convert energy from a power source – a wall plug in a lab or the engine on a military vehicle – into radiated electromagnetic energy and focus it on a target. The directed high-power microwaves damage equipment, particularly electronics, without killing nearby people.

Two good examples are Boeing’s Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), which is a high-power microwave source mounted in a missile, and Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR), which was recently developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to knock out swarms of drones.


A news report about the U.S. Air Force’s high-power microwave anti-drone weapon THOR.

Cold War origins

These types of directed energy microwave devices came on the scene in the late 1960s in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. They were enabled by the development of pulsed power in the 1960s. Pulsed power generates short electrical pulses that have very high electrical power, meaning both high voltage – up to a few megavolts – and large electrical currents – tens of kiloamps. That’s more voltage than the highest-voltage long-distance power transmission lines, and about the amount of current in a lightning bolt.

Plasma physicists at the time realized that if you could generate, for example, a 1-megavolt electron beam with 10-kiloamp current, the result would be a beam power of 10 billion watts, or gigawatts. Converting 10% of that beam power into microwaves using standard microwave tube technology that dates back to the 1940s generates 1 gigawatt of microwaves. For comparison, the output power of today’s typical microwave ovens is around a thousand watts – a million times smaller.

The development of this technology led to a subset of the U.S.-Soviet arms race – a microwave power derby. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, I and other American scientists gained access to Russian pulsed power accelerators, like the SINUS-6 that is still working in my lab. I had a fruitful decade of collaboration with my Russian colleagues, which swiftly ended following Vladimir Putin’s rise to power.

High-Power Microwave Generator

This high-power microwave generator built in the Soviet Union continues to operate in Edl Schamiloglu’s lab at the University of New Mexico. Credit: Edl Schamiloglu, University of New Mexico, CC BY-ND

Today, research in high-power microwaves continues in the U.S. and Russia but has exploded in China. I have visited labs in Russia since 1991 and labs in China since 2006, and the investment being made by China dwarfs activity in the U.S. and Russia. Dozens of countries now have active high-power microwave research programs.

Lots of power, little heat

Although these high-power microwave sources generate very high power levels, they tend to generate repeated short pulses. For example, the SINUS-6 in my lab produces an output pulse on the order of 10 nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. So even when generating 1 gigawatt of output power, a 10-nanosecond pulse has an energy content of only 10 joules. To put this in perspective, the average microwave oven in one second generates 1 kilojoule, or thousand joules of energy. It typically takes about 4 minutes to boil a cup of water, which corresponds to 240 kilojoules of energy.

This is why microwaves generated by these high-power microwave weapons don’t generate noticeable amounts of heat, let alone cause people to explode like baked potatoes in microwave ovens.

High power is important in these weapons because generating very high instantaneous power yields very high instantaneous electric fields, which scale as the square root of the power. It is these high electric fields that can disrupt electronics, which is why the Department of Defense is interested in these devices.

How it affects people

The National Academies report links high-power microwaves to impacts on people through the Frey effect. The human head acts as a receiving antenna for microwaves in the low gigahertz frequency range. Pulses of microwaves in these frequencies can cause people to hear sounds, which is one of the symptoms reported by the affected U.S. personnel. Other symptoms Havana syndrome sufferers have reported include headaches, nausea, hearing loss, lightheadedness and cognitive issues.

The report notes that electronic devices were not disrupted during the attacks, suggesting that the power levels needed for the Frey effect are lower than would be required for an attack on electronics. This would be consistent with a high-power microwave weapon located at some distance from the targets. Power decreases dramatically with distance through the inverse square law, which means one of these devices could produce a power level at the target that would be too low to affect electronics but that could induce the Frey effect.

The Russians and the Chinese certainly possess the capabilities of fielding high-power microwave sources like the ones that appear to have been used in Cuba and China. The truth of what actually happened to U.S. personnel in Cuba and China – and why – might remain a mystery, but the technology most likely involved comes from textbook physics, and the military powers of the world continue to develop and deploy it.

Written by Edl Schamiloglu, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, School of Engineering, University of New Mexico.

Originally published on The Conversation.The Conversation

58 Comments on "Scientists Believe US Embassy Staff and CIA Officers Were Hit With High-Power Microwaves – Here’s How the Weapons Work"

  1. They used to laugh at my tin-foil helmet, not anymore.

  2. The theory sounds incomplete. IF a subject, that is, a human being, and the person had a mutual ground with the source of power would not the subject be killed by the power? Bear in mind I am not an engineer.

    • Thanks Ed. What is the relationship of this tech with 5G? We are exploring some new data on blood aggregation due to EMFs see my twitter @adamdiscovers for a video

    • Del, these are electromagnetic waves, not electricity. It’s basically a high power radio transmitter, just a different frequency than radio.

    • Despite very interesting, the article lacks some urgent information.
      1. How to PROVE in a LAW court a person was/is under such weapons and arsenal?
      2. How to find the origin of such atacks (not meaning this could come from powerline comunications or 5 G’s Sattelites but yes the actual infractors)
      we already know it’s exists! Don’t bother reminding what we already know. We already know it comes from microwaves and since WW2 and nazys also used them and studied them. We also know it can be used to hackcomputers and cybercrimes, biohacking, to annoy and harasse (with sounds, headches, confusion) to break and stole peoples privacie and identities, passwords etc etc.

      So please I would hate to think I would have to live my life inside a farady cage despite not being in any kind of war, just because someone can’t phorbid the use of it, or because it can not be proved it’s use!!!! Now who should be living inside a cage are the persons/groups who are using this against humans and be certain this would be a winner in the court of the Humans rights anywhere in the world – once it can be used not only for vigilance but as well torture.

      So if this gentlemans from the embassys who had their electronics broke due what might have been microwaves and despite not being in a war zone, who is going to pay the damage? Or their lives stolen, imagine if they have an heart atack, can you say it was not murder? (you now this can triger arritmics in the heart? Or stress you into a stage of heart attack?)
      To end and to Mr. Edl Schamiloglu – despite all your remarkble work trought the years in the field: Can we ansewrethe above questions? To finnish and altouhh lot of text I could writte here my final question is:
      3- if this energy can excite and move humanbody electrons aren’t we talking nuclear? after all the energie realesed after being exposed by the body can’t be anything else then radionuclear – maybe that’s why some reports state led lights and flashes under the eyes in a dark room?!

      Well hope next article is a little step further towards getting this people in jail.

  3. How can you protect yourself from the microwave? Earplugs?

    • Microwaves, which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, are reflected by ordinary metal, just as photons of light in the visible spectrum of the electromagnetic spectrum are reflected by optical mirrors. Ever see sparks coming of metal placed in an older microwave oven?

      So I would think that covering oneself in metal should help reflect many right off you; hence the aluminum hat. I could be wrong, but I would imagine that if you electroplated or perhaps some form of vacuum deposition of several dif elemental metals from around the periodic table, and layered them up onto a substrate of a base metal foil or even your clothing itself if treated with graphite first, should effectively reflect the microwaves from hitting much of your biological body.

      I am however skeptical that it was literally microwaves being used in Havana, because they are easy to reflect, but moreover because they would instantly be picked up by the cheapest of bug detectors, and at all of our US embassies, the entire area I would hope would be monitored for all electromagnetic radiation throughout its entire spectrum, and recorded, even using several different types of crystal scintillation materials to cover everything in even the x-ray & gamma frequencies, which all the information backed up and recorded from the omni-spectrometer… yes, omni-spectrometer is what I would name such a device that embassies can use for their security. Know anyone who would hire an Army veteran like myself to ensure that our embassies and areas of operations always have a full recording of what is going on throughout the EM spectrum?

      I am rather dumbfounded that they don’t know what this is for certain yet. Who knows though, it could be some natural phenomenon too, like microwaves generated by some stellar processes, which hits the embassy regularly whenever the earth is rotated into its projected path, anything is possible, even my mind being so open to such possibilities, that my brain falls out somehow lol.

  4. China has hit us with biological attacks, DNS and actual hacking. Stealing everything that isn’t nailed down. Time for Nuclear fire. just saying.

    • Sure, a nuclear exchange between China and the US and ending hundreds of millions of lives on both sides would be a great solution to a few US agents in Cuba feeling ill. Maybe you can be first president of the wasteland survivalists. What will you do when a few of your survivalists feel ill?

    • You voted for trump, right?

    • Sure, if nukes were even real.
      No evidence other DOD press and film releases.
      Ever wonder why Japan got US help oost ww2 and Germany was shat on until the 50s?
      That’s right, They had to bribe Japan to go along with the atonic myth.

  5. Parnelli Jones James | January 3, 2021 at 7:30 am | Reply

    China lies steals cheats even putting the world to a stand still n no one noticed. Where’s NATO! Time for china m to meet their maker.( Fat boy)

  6. This has been a studied area since WW2 and was the area of study by the British which turned into the discovery of radar with help of us and MIT’s Rad Lab. Alfred Loomis and his Tuxedo Park acquaintances were pivotal in this research. From microwaves, to the discovery of radar, the development of the Norton bomb site and then the atom bomb itself. The Japanese heavily believed in this concept of the “death ray” and invested most of their resources into it, when they well could have focused their attention and developed the atom bomb before us as they already had the technology. Now, almost a century later(81 years), this idea is “back in the field” and being used and studied as a weapon. Just think about how much technology, or anything for that matter, has changed in the 81 years that this technology has been around, worked on and studied and how far along has it came. It’s mind blowing just in that realization alone.

  7. Didn’t they put a Faraday Shield on each of our embassies? This was a known problem from the Cold War days.

  8. Communists won the Cold war. Only miracle can save us.

    • Pray for President Trump, as he has greatly helped us get back to hard science and its implementation into advanced weaponry that Russia and China have been continuing research into since we totally dropped the ball after 1991. The amount of election fraud, manipulation, and everything else involving stuff like Dominion Voting Systems devices and software is frightening, all Americans regardless of political creed & philosophy, should be highly concerned about what has happened and has been happening… unless your political creed is the wanted destruction of the United States of America. Probably should put more research money towards supercomputers too, even quantum computing right now, and “Trump” any amount China is currently investing. Computers are the real weapon of today, and far-leftist ideology being mixed with it is our greatest threat currently, regardless of wherever it originates from. God help US!

      • you do know that all 60 court cases all the way up to the supreme court have all been thrown out due to lack of evidence right? everything you have said has been debunked. the only threat to our country is having an authoritarian pos potus inciting violence while shredding the constitution and stupid people such as yourself that believe baseless lies and ignore facts.

    • Well, now that we are a socialist country and we are ruled by China, maybe uncle Joe can talk to them about not doing it to our former cia and fbi now known as KGB, THE CHINESE CONQUERED US FROM WITHIN USING OUR OWN POLITICIANS TO GRAB THE MONEY AND BECOME LOYAL TO SOROS AND CHINA. We are now comrades with the chinks.

  9. T A Tarbutton | January 3, 2021 at 7:57 am | Reply

    Hell its our corrupt corporate America along with administration selling the information out. Clean out the sewer. But nooooo dumbacrats keep voting the idiot card

    • You’re just mad because we Dems were clever enough to steal the election right out from under your Rep noses. How do I know this? I am part of the conspiracy. I rigged some of the voting machines myself. All you need is a hammer and some duct tape.
      Alas, you brilliant Reps figured us out, and even mounted a clever response. Those machines are rigged, not only to flip votes, but also to see how much money you have AND where you keep your guns! Diabolical… yes, but you can still beat us. First, you must summon the courage to short your TV evangelist and, instead, send ALL your money to Stop the Steal. Just be sure to donate in amounts <$8K. (Never mind why.) Oh, and be smart… don't be fooled again. BOYCOTT THE GEORGIA RUNOFFS!!!

    • Ima elephonkey | January 3, 2021 at 10:22 pm | Reply

      Republicans lie. democrats deceive. The problem lays in the deceitful lies. You all need to get up and stand up…you can argue who gets up and who stands support the human party … Divide and conquer isnt just a foreign policy it is a policy…. Blah blah

  10. “The human head acts as a receiving antenna for microwaves in the low gigahertz frequency range.”
    5G frequency ranges are in 2 bands:
    1) 0.45-6Ghz
    2) 24.25-52.6 Ghz
    Draw your own conclusions

    • “Draw you own conclusions” — spoken by people who skipped actually learning about the subject and prefer to fill in their ignorance with fun conspiracies. You realize there are different things at the same frequency band, right? A high powered 445 nm laser can severely burn you, but it doesn’t mean you must smash your TV and LED lights with a hammer just because they also output light in the range of 400-700nm.

  11. Cindy, you are going to think I’m being facetious, but I’m serious: you could wear a tinfoil hat to stop the microwaves.

  12. So, what type of countermeasures can be used? We need a system that’s passive or active. If it’s sound or EMF it can be cancelled with an inverted wave. If painting walls with metal and adding acoustic fome to our buildings would work, let’s do it.

  13. I wonder if a tinfoil hat would make sparks when such high power microwaves hit it? Like when you accidentally leave a fork on your plate in the microwave?

  14. They are literally cooking the heads of our officials, operating from afar with a method that leaves no physical evidence of origin and takes place on foreign soil so we can’t access private surveillance.

    They are likely trying to find out what time and energy under the beam are needed to put our people in diminished capacity without outright making them an invalid – which gives them a leg up in negotiations and makes our counter intelligence easier to root out.

    Our people are going to start having to wear radiation alarms on their persons to mitigate being cooked from the inside.

    It’s time for them to get called out on the passive aggressive bs, but it could still be the Iranians or other actors looking to start a conflict after we killed their general.

  15. If foreign govt’s are microwaving ppl, then is the US microwaving ppl? Here’s the answer: http://chemspray.weebly.com

  16. The us says microwaves, Canada says simple pesticides.

    https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5288609

  17. General billy bob. | January 3, 2021 at 12:05 pm | Reply

    All that mumbo jumbo is fine n dandy regardless of who’s side you’re on but if none of you are in a position well enough to get anything done about it then it doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t put it in to action. You people are obviously not a bubba gump shrimp corporation but even forest God damn gump got 12 Jenny’s up n running. Have a great day. Good work out there.

  18. Smart article. Stupid comment section. You people all need help.

  19. When I first learned of these attacks I immediately thought that pulse-modulated HPM could be the cause. Given the hostile state actors involved (Cuba and Russia) and Russia’s expertise in the area I thought it was an obvious thing to look at. And yes, reasonable defenses could be deployed. I will read the NAS report and see what they conclude.

  20. I have a few questions: Could these be used for communication? Could the equipment be small enough to be inside the embassy? Could it be used to send signals outside the embassy on a timed frequency? Sort of the old camera in the Xerox machine type of setup. Maybe I watch too many spy movies.

  21. How many minutes and do you have to stir halfway through cooking

  22. Do focused beams obey the inverse square law?

  23. Jamie keathley Facebook pic:black mask | January 3, 2021 at 3:38 pm | Reply

    The orb technology is responsible for the “attack”. It’s used to map and influence a persons consciousness within an entangled field from a remote location. The orb is the electromagnetic field that is generated by energizing a synthetic atom within the beam of an X-ray laser. Laser tweezer technology.

  24. That figures a bunch geniuses with no common sense

  25. Smart Guy Rick | January 3, 2021 at 5:06 pm | Reply

    What we cookin

  26. Don’t embassies scan for interference, ever???

  27. Chinese have been reported to be using them on Indian troops in the Himalayas in the past few months !! It’s unjust and chine needs to be stopped. They are trying to steel the Himalayas and mine it.

  28. The blob keeps repeating this same stupid story as a propaganda piece. What was it three years ago US diplomats complained about yhe same thing in Cuba. Turned out to be crickets. Maybe the empire should focus on its own dysfunction instead of blaming others.

  29. sue jones 345 davis st waco | January 4, 2021 at 10:13 am | Reply

    It’s disappointing that they’re not willing to say why the signals are being sent. It’s not intentionally to scramble people’s brains. They’re hoping to get reflections to hear what’s being said inside the embassies. It’s a listening device. probably old ones left over from the Cold war that use way more power than it would need to if redesigned today.
    It’s obvious that the US authorities don’t want to say that, because they want to keep using them too.

  30. What it seems that everybody is ignoring is the simple fact that these microwaves are not that hard to produce and the equipment to generate them is not that expensive. I wouldn’t be surprised if (a) it was an un-recognized player trying to break into the “big time” or that this effect is being caused by a security system that we, the United States, are running to prevent espionage. It wouldn’t be the first time one security agency’s bright idea managed to cause unexpected damages when combined with another agency’s clever development. First, find out what and who were doing security for the Havana and then look outside the thing.

  31. A more likely possibility is that our State Department added some 5G to the facilities.

  32. This is the kind of weapon we don’t want private security agencies as well corrupt polices law forces to have in hands. In Portugal they just killed an Ukrainian at the airport and send as well sent false curriculums to ONU, taking everybody for fools. Power line communications uses microwaves and we can easily find them in every house. Just make the use of this internationaly phorbbiden

  33. Baked potatoes don’t explode in the microwave. Eggs do.

  34. Your story begins “Scientists
    Believe…”
    But did they measure?
    Did any scientist actually measure the nature, strength and origen of these microwaves?

  35. Enjoy your cell phones.

  36. … so, there are untold theories, but who has a Thor?…

  37. To the music of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”……

    Microwave the food and more, Hallelujah!
    with 5G, right through the door, Hallelujah!
    Don’t need huge army machines, Hallelujah!
    ‘Cause my cell works like a dream, Hallelujah!
    Put it right up to my ear, Hallelujah!
    For those sounds I like to hear, Hallelujah!
    Not so smart as I once was, Hallelujah!
    Since I’ve learned to love the buzz, Hallelujah!
    Call me now, I’m feeling flat, Hallelujah!
    Let’s try it now, upon my cat, Hallelujah!
    He says no, he’ll text instead! Hallelujah!
    He wants no waves inside his head! Hallelujah!

  38. Imagine how the targeted individuals feel. Any one in infraguard, you guys know about synthetic telepathy being remote nureal monitoring and v2k at the same time. If they get mad, they will switch you to slow kill tortureware 6.66. You did not sign up for that did you? It’s a bunch of garbage.

  39. When this turned up I my feed, I felt the need to debunk it. Having read the other reader comments, I no longer feel the need, this is a site for conspiracy theorists and the mentally ill. There is no changing those minds with logic or facts. For other normal people who wandered in here by mistake, consider reading this: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/danvergano/microwave-attacks-havana-syndrome-diplomats

  40. Yolanda Yvette Alston | January 7, 2021 at 6:45 pm | Reply

    Thor, Sinus-6, and the other one. Complete Science.

  41. … I believe some people who like pseudo science and are prone to point out that it might be a fake news and that it is not possible, …
    … Oh gush, have you ever herd about this guy>
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden
    Thank you God!!!

    Harvest time…

  42. Thank you for leaving my comment up. Tortureware is real and it hurts so bad. We must end the abuse of the few to the many. Bless!!!

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