Ground-Based 'Star Wars'
Disaster Or 'Pure' Research?
By Dr. Nick Begich of Anchorage, Alaska,
and Jeane Manning of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Reprinted from Earthpulse
Flashpoints, Newtext Number Three.
"The earth is delicately balanced, and seeks to restore balance when disturbed. No
one really knows how ionospheric experiments will affect that balance, or what the earth
will do in response to try to restore balance."
These words are from Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., of Toronto, Canada, founder of the
International Institute of Concern for Public Health. Dr. Bertell was commenting on a U.
S. military experiment named HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program). HAARP
may be the test run for a ground-based 'Star Wars' defense system. Military documents say
it is intended to disrupt portions of the ionosphere (electrically active layer above the
upper atmosphere) by heating it with powerful pulsed radio frequency beams. Radiation that
bounces back to the surface of the planet would be in the longwave ELF (extremely low
Intended to be the most powerful ionospheric heater ever built, HAARP's ground-based
apparatus - an array of 48 antennae each powered by its own transmitter - sits in the
remote Alaskan wilderness northeast of the city of Anchorage. HAARP is much more than the
auroral (Northern Lights) and radio-communications research project as is claimed by
researchers at the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute and their financial
backers - the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. Any weapons system in its early stages can be
easily disguised as "pure" research. The fact is however, that HAARP is a
military experiment aimed at invasively manipulating the ionosphere by beaming high energy
upward from the ground. Such activity could potentially disrupt natural systems on the
earth and high above it.
Individual members of the European Parliament are among the growing number of people
worldwide who have been startled to hear about HAARP. Voices expressing various levels of
concern are being heard in many countries. For example, in contrast with the
cautiously-worded comment of Dr. Bertell, a Germany-based researcher in the field of
quantum electrodynamics, Al Zielinski, paints an apocalyptic word-picture. (He says HAARP
technology could trigger a disaster with a global impact - electromagnetic waves causing
destruction "when interacting with protective layers of the earth and its
The ionosphere seems very far away, but even when undisturbed by humans it affects our
everyday lives. For example, radio broadcasts are bounced off this electrically charged
layer which lies between forty and six hundred miles above the surface of the earth, just
above the ozone layer. The ionosphere is alive with electrical activity, so much so that
its processes are "non-linear". This means that the ionosphere is dynamic, and
its reactions to experiments are unpredictable.
The concept of non-linear is important in understanding the concerns of independent
scientists who are knowledgeable about advanced physics and who warn against brash
high-energy experiments on the ionosphere. Non-linear processes can change suddenly and
unexpectedly, or they can increase in power dramatically. Some theorists such as Zielinski
say that a non-linear process can under certain conditions tap into the background energy
of space, which is also called "zero-point fluctuations of the vacuum".
Studying radio communications by using a tool as powerful as HAARP is a worthy
scientific task in the opinion of the authors, but some independent researchers question
whether the means justifies the end. Is it wise to poke holes in Earth's electrical
umbrella? Is it wise to prod a dynamic natural system without knowing how it might react?
HAARP-Type Technology Could Perform A Variety Of Tricks
HAARP is intended to heat and lift a portion of the ionosphere above a selected
location or locations on the planet in order to make a huge invisible "mirror"
for bouncing electromagnetic radiation back to the surface of Earth. Why? The answer is
that the U.S. military wants to:
- communicate with its submerged submarines by penetrating the oceans with ELF (Extremely
Low Frequency) radiations.
- penetrate the land with ELF in order to search for hidden tunnels or other sites of
military interest (a process known as earth-penetrating tomography).
What else could a HAARP-type project do in the near future? If the technology is scaled
up in size, it could:
- Shield a territory from intercontinental ballistic missiles
- Fry satellites
- Discriminate between incoming objects (missiles)
- Enhance communications
- Disrupt communications over a large area of the globe
- Change the chemical structure of the upper atmosphere and possibly alter the weather
- Affect human mental functioning
- Impact the health of humans and other biological systems.
Ionospheric heaters as a class of research instruments are nothing new; they have
operated in Puerto Rico, the former Soviet Union and Tromso, Norway (operated by Max
Planck Insitut fur Aeronomie) as well as at another site in Alaska. But what is being
tested in the Alaskan wilderness since 1994 is new -- a tool that can focus and steer the
radio frequency energy upward. This makes it capable of hitting the ionosphere with a far
greater impact than possible from the previous design of heaters.
As HAARP's focused radio-frequency beams heat and boil targeted locations of the
ionosphere, Earth's electrical system will be injected with a further excess of
high-energy particles. What happens when a saturated system is infused repeatedly with too
much energy? This question has been raised by independent physicists.
Each experiment with the HAARP is a test run for what can later be a powerful
multi-purpose tool for the United States military. When completely built, the tool will
beam an immense amount of focused radio-frequency energy upward, heating and therefore
lifting a part of the ionosphere. To picture how HAARP works, imagine a radio telescope in
reverse; antennas that send out signals instead of receiving them. Then imagine an array
of the most powerful of such instruments, working together to focus a beam upward.
How can a lay person understand what such a tool could do? Alaska state legislators are
not necessarily trained in science, so in the spring of 1996 their State Affairs committee
called in representatives of both sides of the HAARP controversy. (Following publication
of the book Angels Don't Play This HAARP, many Alaskans became aware of the experiment in
their backyard and asked their lawmakers to look at it.)
Alaska Lawmakers Hear Scientists' Concerns
One of the experts who testified at the State Affairs Committee hearing was Richard
Williams of Princeton, New Jersey. He has a doctorate degree in physical chemistry from
Harvard University and worked for 30 years as an industrial scientist in solid state
electronics, electronics, structure of clouds, water evaporation and other environmental
problems. Dr. Williams is an independent scientist; he's not dependent on funding from the
military. This lends him a degree of independent judgment which compels us to quote him at
"I want to alert the legislature to an activity now going on in Alaska that, in
addition to any local effect, might become a global threat to the atmosphere. That is
HAARP. The initial experiment, as Mr.(project manager John) Hecksher said, will be done
using modest power levels and are not a cause for concern. However, the project's internal
documents indicate that plans include the eventual use of power levels up to ten billion
watts. This is an enormous power level, more than 200 times the total electrical power
level used by the city of Juneau. There could be a serious impact in the atmosphere that
might result from energies of this magnitude. Effects might include drastic alteration of
the thermal, refractive, scattering and emission character of the atmosphere over a wide
range of the electromagnetic spectrum."
"Experiments at this power level would produce large changes in the concentration
of charged particles in the ionosphere that would persist for some time and might even
lead to permanent changes."
Dr. Williams told the committee that he is a supporter of the armed forces, but as a
scientist he wanted to explain how "unintended consequences of innocent and
beneficial human activities can cause serious changes on a global scale".
We introduced two examples of activities earlier this century which caused
unintentional and serious changes in the atmosphere, with effects worldwide. The first
example he cited was the growing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"What we don't know yet is how this will affect the delicate balance of life on
The second unintended change that he cited is damage to the ozone layer, that shields
us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. "In neither of these examples would an
Environmental Impact Statement have identified the problem in time. Do we have any way to
judge what (HAARP's) energy can do to the upper atmosphere?"
Excess Of Charged Particles, A Product Of HAARP
Perhaps, Dr. Williams offered, we do have an indicator: results of high-altitude
nuclear explosions by the US and USSR during the Cold War. Intended to produce artificial
radiation zones and possibly counteract a threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles,
the explosions resulted in global interruptions of radio communications and profound
disturbances of the upper atmosphere, including greatly increased concentrations of
Following one of these tests, in July of 1962, James Van Allen used
specially-instrumented satellites to monitor the electron population in the upper
atmosphere. He reported a large initial increase in electron population, followed by a
slow decrease, with significant disturbances still observable a year after the explosion.
"But this was just one injection of energy," Dr. Williams said. "To
develop a military system, such as the one proposed by HAARP to communicate with submerged
submarines, takes many tests, even if the system is never used in combat. For example, for
test purposes over the years, the nuclear armed countries have exploded more than 2,000
nuclear weapons, mostly near the Earth's surface or under ground. A single massive
injection of energy into the atmosphere violently disturbs its properties, and as Van
Allen showed, the effect can last for a year or more."
"What would be the effect of repeatedly injecting high energy thousands of times?
I believe the answer is that no one knows."
Those were changes of the atmosphere on a global scale, Dr. Williams noted. He pondered
the possibility of additional, special, effects for polar regions, where the upper
atmosphere has unique properties. Showers of charged particles coming from storms on the
sun veer toward the poles, where they enter the atmosphere and produce the northern
lights; some changes in the ozone layer have been most extreme over Antarctica and the far
North. "Any future global changes in the atmosphere might well be noticed first in
polar regions. Alaska may get the first warning of coming changes. And serve as the
miner's canary for the rest of the world. If this happened, Alaska's state motto, 'North
to the Future', would take on an unintended and ironic meaning."
"For any program that might damage the atmosphere on a global scale, we need to
have full warning of the plans in advance, and informed public discussion, to justify the
activity and identify all possible hazards."
Dr. William Gordon (Ph.D. at Rice University, an electrical engineer specializing in
radio communications) has worked on an ionospheric heater project and said there is
"no convincing evidence" that exposure to low frequency electric or magnetic
fields causes monitorable health hazards. He said the U.S. Navy has sponsored a series of
studies asking if their ELF transmitters in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan have
"The results are not all in, but from the material I have looked at, operation of
the ELF facility does not produce ecological effects..." While testifying at the
legislative hearing he claimed that operation of very powerful transmitters have no
adverse health effects.
Dr. Patrick Flanagan of Arizona disagrees. Dr. Flanagan also gave telephoned testimony.
Since the proponents of HAARP focused attention on whether those questioning the project
have prestigious academic backgrounds, Dr. Begich introduced Patrick Flanagan at length:
He has a doctorate in both medicine and physics and has experience in government
weapons projects: he developed and sold a guided missile detector to the U.S. military
when still a youth. Later he developed an electronic device for communication with the
brain. Dr. Flanagan worked with a Pentagon think tank that was run by the former head of
the Office of Scientific Research. He also developed speech encoding systems. He has
worked for NASA, Tufts University, the Office of Naval Research, and at the Aberdeen
Proving Grounds for the Department of Unconventional Weapons and Warfare.
The major portion of Dr. Flanagan's life work, however, has been on electromagnetic
fields and their effects on living systems. In 1968 he turned his back on
government-sponsored research, and since then has done independent research in his own
Max Planck Institute Points To Health Effects
Possible effects of future HAARP fields on living systems is a concern that should be
discussed, Dr. Flanagan told the committee. "One of the purposes of HAARP is to
develop ELF (extremely low frequency) capability, for transmitting high-energy ELF waves,
from .001 HZ all the way up to 40 Kilohertz, as described in (the military's)
In the meantime, new research by other scientists shows that ELF signals may have
profound effects on living organisms. Dr. Flanagan cited the example of known effects of
ELF on the Circadian rhythms, which is the biological clock, of all living organisms
"The Max Planck Institute in Germany has done quite a bit of work on this, showing
that very low energy levels - in fact, energy levels that are one tenth of the strength of
the earth's magnetic field, can have profound effects on these rhythms... Mr. Hecksher and
his colleagues may say that ELF fields from HAARP are not harmful, but remember -- our
government once sprayed DDT (pesticide) on school children while they were eating lunch,
and said this was not harmful..."
Dr. Flanagan in his brief testimony cited a study by a researcher at Catholic
University which showed that coherent ELF fields, which is what HAARP will generate, can
have an effect on DNA. For example they create abnormal development in chicken embryos and
"possibly in humans".
In reply to denial by a military representative, Dr. Flanagan said there are thousands
of papers written by reputable scientists on the negative effects of ELF fields on living
systems. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report in 1991 linking
electromagnetic fields to leukemia and brain cancer in children, for example. Flanagan
continues, "we have a paper here that was just published in 1996 entitled Superimposing
Spatially Coherent Electromagnetic Noise Inhibits Field-induced Abnormalities in
Developing Chick Embryos. The paper shows that very low energy ELF fields develop
abnormalities in developing chick embryos." (The fields could be counteracted by
applying a white noise field.) "There is a tremendous amount of background literature
on this. So ELF fields are not just harmless, as is being implied.... I don't think the
question of electromagnetic safety has been entered at all."
No National Flags Waving In The Ionosphere
Mark Farmer, a journalist from Juneau, Alaska, also testified. Farmer prefaced his
testimony by reminding the military representatives that he quotes statements from their
own documents. Farmer's articles have been published in the prestigious defense magazine,
Janes Defense Weekly, and in Popular Science magazine.
Farmer agreed that HAARP needs independent monitoring but he is not opposed to HAARP
and appreciates the instrumentation. Particularly because it is currently only one-tenth
of its eventual size "...the actual transmitter, as Mr. Hecksher says, is going to be
a complex of incoherent scatter radars, some imaging devices. The super computer from UAF
(University of Alaska, Fairbanks) is going to be tied in I imagine, for diagnostics.
There's a spun liquid mercury mirror that's being put in. This is cutting-edge stuff and
we in Alaska are lucky to have it, in some respects. I am generally in favor of the
program, but the oversight (monitoring of the project) stinks."
"There is no supranational treaty that deals with the upper atmosphere or the
ionosphere like there is for Antarctica or outer space," Farmer continued.
"I doubt if the power levels of HAARP are going to do anything really bad, but I
don't know. Back in the 1950s and 1960s we blew up hydrogen bombs in the upper
atmosphere... that delivered a lot more energy than HAARP can. But with (HAARP's)
beam-steering, the pulsing capabilities, and maybe some instigation from secret
organizations or counterproliferation groups within the U. S. government, there could be
some bad effects."
"So there needs to be oversight other than the military." Farmer noted that
Phillips laboratory, where HAARP's project manager is based, does basic research, as does
the Office of Naval Research. But they also build secret weapons.
Most of Farmer's writing involves a covert testing base in Nevada called Area 51; he
has spent much time in that area and in observing military secrecy tactics. He does not
see HAARP itself as a secret project, but added that he does believe there are some secret
initiatives. HAARP documents are unclassified "at least that I've been able to find.
But there are classified documents dealing with 'Star Wars' (Strategic Defense Initiative)
related projects such as using ionospheric heaters, back in the '1980s, which HAARP is
actually a spinoff from."
HAARP technology could be used for beneficial purposes, Farmer said. However, if people
outside the military lose interest in asking that HAARP's power levels and purposes be
monitored by independent science councils, then the hidden world of defense corporations
will probably step in. "The black programs will probably seep in from the side. And
there will be secret initiatives."
Could Other Countries Build Powerful Zappers?
One of the legislators, Representative Green, asked if HAARP is opening a
"Pandora's box" - other countries would soon have whatever technology is
developed in HAARP. Could what begins in its simplistic form, safe and controllable, later
be used as a weapon by increasing the level of energy, and possibly detrimental effects,
over selected areas?
Edward Kennedy, from Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., who is a technical
interface between the contractor for HAARP (Raytheon Corporation) and the government, said
that is difficult to answer. "We in the United States have no control over what other
countries might do." However, he said, most other countries probably would not be
able to finance building such a powerful instrument.
HAARP project manager John Hecksher told the committee that the ionospheric heater in
Norway is comparable to HAARP: it has an antenna array very much like what HAARP will
have. However, regarding HAARP's ability to create a narrow beam, Norway's instrument is
two or three times less powerful than what HAARP will become.
Dr. Begich wanted the discussion to focus on the unique features of HAARP technology,
not merely on power levels transmitted from the ground. The significant feature which
distinguishes HAARP from other ionospheric heater projects operating around the world is
the focusing capability of this particular design. The ability to focus radio-frequency
energy into a narrow beam and to steer that beam gives it a powerful advantage in
"perturbing the ionosphere".
Dr. Siun Akasofu, head of the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute, argued that
speaking about the focusing is misleading and that even if the radio-frequency beam is
focused, "...the amount of energy going into the ionosphere is so little that you
cannot see any light coming from the ionosphere. One of most sensitive instruments in the
world cannot see it. On the other hand, look at the aurora; you can see it with your naked
eye." (We experienced Dr. Akasofu's statement as being strange, because the
scientific literature on ionospheric heaters is full of references to "enhanced
airglow" from the experiments.)
Dr. Begich and Dr. Flanagan asked the committee to look at the absence of independent
biological scientists and people with backgrounds in electrophysiology, in the think tanks
where HAARP-type experiments are hatched. People with those backgrounds are also
concerned, he said, that using a tool for disturbing the ionosphere is not a decision that
should be made only by the United States; it's a global issue.
Alaska may acquire a defense shield in the form of an advanced HAARP-type technology,
Dr. Begich noted. "But it has to be reviewed from a biological standpoint, not just a
Changing Statements About Power Levels
At the legislative hearing, HAARP employees focused on HAARP's current power levels,
while the researchers on the other side of the controversy focused attention on the
direction in which the power levels for the project are heading.
Has the military decided to downsize this current program they call HAARP because of
public attention to it? At the legislative hearing, a representative of the military said
the current developmental prototype of HAARP is capable of 3.6 kilowatts of radiated
power. The full scale prototype will provide up to ten times that, or about 3,600
kilowatts, he said.
Dr. Patrick Flanagan noted that "the power levels described by Dr. Hecksher aren't
consistent with a statement he made on a TV show (Sightings). When he was interviewed,
(Dr. Hecksher) said the HAARP system can punch holes through the ionosphere and these
holes would heal shortly after a HAARP system was turned off."
To punch a hole through the ionosphere would take more than the alleged 3,600
kilowatts, Dr. Flanagan indicated. He did mention, however, that there was another
disturbing possibility: the "maser amplification of the HAARP energy. For example, if
HAARP is applying 3,600 kilowatts to the ionosphere, there's a possibility of what is
called maser amplification of that energy by charged particles in the ionosphere...the
energy is powered by the energy from the sun. So that these charged particles in the
ionosphere can be caused to mase... So that puts out more energy than HAARP is putting
What do the military planners have in mind? Technical Memorandum 195, an unpublished
613-page compilation concerning the HAARP Workshop on Ionospheric Heating Diagnostics,
(held in 1991 at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts) includes this piece of
information: the desired level of power for HAARP is 100 billion watts, vastly greater
than what the military is now claiming as a goal. Other documents from the military were
openly published and refer to power levels between one and ten gigawatts (billion watts).
Whatever the eventual power level it does not take much power bouncing back to the
surface of the earth to affect living organisms. Dr. Nick Begich also told the State
Affairs Committee about a substantial amount of science literature on the topic that has
been published as recently as the early 1990s. The findings suggest that lower levels of
energy (lower than previously believed) can affect human physiology. These studies are the
most significant aspect of what has not been properly disclosed by those responsible for
the HAARP project's safety, he testified. The project began when the debate over effects
of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation was still in its infancy. Since then, many
scientists have come to the conclusion that lower energy densities, when pulsed in the
right frequency range, will have profound health effects.