L-265 Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation on Munitions Part 3: Hazards of Portable Electronic Devices to Munitions

May 2021
Matt Ferran (MSIAC)
Over the last 20 years, an array of portable electronic devices (PEDs) capable of low-power radiofrequency (RF) transmissions have become available for purchase as consumer electronics, and are a ubiquitous part of daily life. Examples include: cell phones, laptop and tablet computers, smart watches, wireless headphones, internal and external medical devices, etc.

The effect of RF transmissions on munitions containing electrically-initiated devices (EIDs) is well established, potentially leading to unintentional initiation of the EID. Accordingly, it is common practice to place restrictions on the use or carriage of transmitters in the vicinity of munitions, including PEDs. However, due to the relatively low transmission power of PEDs, the proportionality of this approach is often questioned.

This report reviews the factors influencing unintentional RF-induced EID responses, and attempts to quantify the actual hazard posed by PEDs in the vicinity of munition systems. Discussion is framed in the context of national policies for management of electromagnetic hazards to munitions.

The sheer number and variety of PEDs makes any sort of individual characterization impracticable. As such, the simplistic approach embodied in national policies to manage the risk from PEDs is all that can reasonably be implemented and, in fact, is largely consistent with requirements of national occupational health & safety legislation. While no conclusive examples could be found of HERO incidents caused by PEDs, both theoretical considerations and practical examples show that the close presence of low power radiofrequency transmitters to munitions is a legitimate concern.

Contact us for more information: 

Matthew Ferran
United Kingdom
+32 2 707 55 58