For years, no military program has sparked more fevered speculation from conspiracy theorists than the mysterious High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP. And for years, the Pentagon has been pooh-poohing speculation that the enormous collection of transmitters, radars, and magnetometers in Alaska was some sort of superweapon.

But, it turns out, the conspiracy theorists may not have been entirely off-base, after all.

Since its inception, there's been a huge range of opinion on what HAARP actually does: everything from a giant mind control facility to a space nuke countermeasure to a weather controller to an ionosphere-boiling mad science experiment to the mother of all pork projects has been suggested. But now that the program is actually up an running, military managers say the electronics array has much more benign use. "HAARP's main job is to produce radio waves to probe the ionosphere," an Air Force Research Laboratory officer said in October.

Which is true -- up to a point.

A drive by Clifford Stone on the X-Files-esque uber-site Above Top Secret to use the Freedom of Information Act to turn up UFO-related documents has led to the release of a fascinating report, HAARP: Research and Applications. It's from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research, and it lays out the uses the military see for HAARP. Turns out the Pentagon wants some military bang for their buck from the program.

HAARP can actually perform a lot of militarily important functions, all involving the interactions of radio waves with the high atmosphere, magnetosphere and ionosphere.

The document points out that "on the higher frequency end (VHF/UHF) transionospheric propagation is a ubiquitous element of numerous civilian and military communication systems, surveillance and remote sensing systems." In other words, messing with the ionosphere means you can shut down VHF radio, TV and radar signals at will. As radio hams know, the reflection and refraction effects of the ionosphere make a huge difference to long-range radio reception, and HAARP provides the only means of influencing that.

Another interesting feature is how HAARP can influence the 'auroral electrodynamic circuit', a natural flow of electricity with ranges from 100,000 to 1 million megawatts ("equivalent to 10 to 100 large power plants"). Messing with the electrical properties of the ionosphere means some of this tremendous flow of power can be changed at the flick of a switch. In effect, the natural flow can be modulated to create a gigantic low-frequency radio transmitter.

Which is extremely interesting to military types. Extremely low frequency, or ELF, waves can be used for submarine communications and for probing the planet; because of the way they propagate, HAARP can cover "a significant fraction of the Earth." The document says that the waves can be used for "seabed exploration" and even locating mines underwater, not to mention "underground target detection."

HAARP can also "induce precipitation of energetic particles" in the ionosphere, which "could impact the operation and lifespan of satellites." While this is mainly about protecting satellites from particles from solar flares or nuclear explosions, the phrasing suggests that it might be able to have a subtle negative impact on satellites as well.

At the High Frequency range, HAARP also has some useful tricks, including being able to "enhance ground-to-ground and satellite-to-ground links that would otherwise be marginal or absent." Its ability to create a radio-reflective layer means it can create new over-the-horizon capabilities for radio and radar systems. It can even act as a HF radar emitter itself.

The third band is optical and near-optical: HAARP can make lights in the sky. While we have looked at the effect of creating high-altitude plasmas before (as possible anti-missile defence), the document notes that it can also produce "airglow with megawatt power…in the IR [infrared] region of the spectrum." This has "significant military implications for IR detection and countermeasures." The picture with this shows the IR glow below a satellite, suggesting that the system may be able to blank out the view of IR satellites selectively. Given that such satellites are the best way of detecting the launch of ICBMs, this is a significant capability.

All in all, it's a set-up that can do a lot more than just basic research. And while this may not seem much compared to weather modification, remember that these are just the capabilities they're willing to make public...

© 2007 David Hambling

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