Ultimate Soft Target




Chemical, biological, and radiological weapons and attacks are what most people think of  when they think of major physical  threats to this country, getting CBR weapons into the country and deploying them in an effective manner is very complicated and has a low probability of success.  The terrorist’s ultimate soft targets are the  nation’s high voltage transmission grids and it is much easier for terrorists to inflict major damage. All  high voltage transmission grids are  currently vulnerable to a terrorist attack because the grids are designed to supply reliable power to the load (electric energy users) assuming very few (1 0r 2) simultaneous major component outages.

If 3 or more critical components are out of service at the same time the effected grid would automatically be shut down by the protective relays to prevent more critical equipment from being damaged from the resulting abnormal system conditions.

While no known Terrorist groups has the capability to disable the entire national grid, it’s much to extensive,

Even a small number of terrorist can disable a local grid supplying electricity to a major city.

Terrorist [to learn how a terrorist would design an attack click Cando this  because most  large cities import  their electric power over long, exposed  aerial power lines from generating plants some located hundreds or thousands of miles  away. The high voltage grid begins at the generating plants where a very large, specialized transformer called the generator step up transformer is used to raise the low voltage produced by the generator to a much higher voltage needed to transport the electrical energy over long distances.

Without electric power normal activities essential to life in the cities will immediately be disrupted.  Millions will find themselves in a fight for survival for which many will lose. The entire nation will be effected.

A congressional committee  has recognized there is a terrorist threat and is  calling for a coordinated effort to minimize the impact of an attack on the grid.

This Committee is doing nothing that hasn’t been looked at in the past.  Many people, in and out of government, have  known  for decades how vulnerable the grid is and how devastating an successful attack would be.

Why haven’t the terrorist  attacked the grid yet? They may already be in the advanced planning stages. 9/11 was a complete surprise. It would take fewer terrorist than struck on 9/11 to carry out a crippling attack on the transmission grid supplying a major city. For the terrorist knocking out power to a major city, or worse multiple cities, would be  the equivalent of hitting America with a WMD.


The term Terrorist’s WMD is not a WMD weapon rather the devastation resulting from the attack:

  • Potentially as many as Millions of  Casualties
  • Potentially as many as Millions more Displaced People
  • Extensive Damage to Buildings, Infrastructure, Industries in the target city 
  • Long Term, Catastrophic Impact on the Nation’s economy

The actual “weapons” used to cause this devastation are low tech :

  • improvised from common-place and easily obtainable components to make explosives and incendiary devices.
  • Shotguns or Rifles used for hunting deer
  • Drones and  model airplanes sold in thousands of stores and on line. This $50 drone when flown into a line insulator will knock out the entire transmission line until the insulator is replaced.

  • Large Drones, Ultra light and small private piloted aircraft.

A drone with a camera can be used to fly into a substation and hit a critical transformer bushing. Knocking out the transformer until the bushing is replaced. The transformer winding could also be damaged. The transformer windings can not be repaired in the field requiring the transformer, which weighs several hundred tons, to be shipped to a transformer factory for repairs, if it is repairable. The transformer or a replacement may be back on line in two months as a minimum.

One or Two person ultralights could be used to drop explosives or incendiary devices on energized critical infrastructure transformers, destroying the transformer. The passenger in a two person ultralight could destroy the transformer bushings with a rifle or shotgun.

Super STOL fixed wing aircraft could be used to drop explosives or incendiary devices. They could even land in a large substation where the pilot could use explosives, RPGs, incendiary devices to destroy critical infrastructure transformers

Small fixed wing aircraft, with a pilot and passenger, could carry a larger payload than an ultralight or the Super STOL shown above. The payload could be enough explosives and incendiary devices  to destroy all the critical transformers, typical 2 or more,  in the substation. The passenger could use a rifle or shotgun to destroy transformer bushings. These planes can fly in inclement weather and high winds that will ground ultralights and Super STOL aircraft.

  • common, man portable, military weapons which because of their small size can easily be smuggled into the country by land (across open boarders),  sea ( hidden in the cargo of a freighter,   transported into the country by small boats) ,  or  air  (in a small airplane). US Authorities know Mexican Drug Cartels are currently smuggling explosives into the US across the Mexican-US boarder.  So far  the explosives have only been used by one Cartel against another as the drug wars spill North across the Mexican boarder.

These weapons would be used to:

  • explosives  –  to breach the reinforced walls built to protect critical infrastructure substations, once inside the substations to destroy the critical infrastructure power transformers
  • Shotguns- shooting steel shot at a transformer bushing or power line insulator. The steel shot will form a conductive path for the arc (causing a short) between the high voltage end of the bushing or insulator and the grounded end of the bushing (the aluminum flange used to bolt the bushing to the transformers cover) or the grounded end of the line insulator. The arc will severely damage the bushing or line insulator requiring their replacement.
  • Rifles used to damage transformer bushings or power line insulators with the same results as a shotgun but from a further distance.
  • Rocket Propeller Grenades (RPGs),  –  to destroy the critical infrastructure power transformers
  • Incendiary device -to destroy critical infrastructure power transformers
  • Small drones or model airplanes deliberately crashed into a transformer bushing or power line insulator  shorting out the bushing or line insulators. Small drones and RC model airplanes can only be used in calm winds without precipitation. The electric fields surrounding high voltage transmission lines can interfere with the RC signal and cause the drones to crash.
  • Larger drones, ultra light aircraft or small private planes can be used to drop explosives or incendiary devices on transformers.
  • ISIS is currently using commercially available Drones to hit  Iraqi tanks with IEDs. Tanks are smaller targets than transformers and tanks move.
  • Winter in the Northern States is a force multiplier weapon. Apartments, homes and businesses will have no heat and no water for weeks or months during the coldest and stormiest time of the year.

With either improvised or light military weapons the  terrorist’s can, with a well planned and co ordinated attack,  destroy the key components of the transmission grid.

The targets  [to learn how a terrorist would select targets click Targets]  are:

  • Critical Infrastructure large power transformers 

This 345 thousand volt transformer connects the bulk transmission systems (200 thousand volts or more) of two Utilities. Destroying this transformer destabilizes both transmission systems. Destroy two more critical transformers on either transmission system will cause that system to crash. It could take months to restore the system to operation. If the transmission system supplies power to a major city the city will be blacked out.

This is a 345 thousand volt bushing that connects the transformer winding to the 345 thousand volt transmission system. The bushing is made of porcelain and filled with mineral oil, as is the transformer itself. Damaging a bushing either by flying a drone into it or with shotgun or rifle fire will disable the transformer for a week or more until the bushing is replaced- if a spare bushing available.  If the transformer winding is also damaged the transformer must be replaced

  • Critical Infrastructure high voltage transmission line  insulators – destroying just one  insulator will disable the entire transmission line until that insulator is replaced.
  • An Accident or intentional? A drone caused an extensive outage in California when it crashed into a transmission line.

  • The easiest way to knock a nuclear power plant off line is to take out the transmission lines connecting the power plant to the grid. This is because the Tech Specs (the licensing document with the NRC which defines the design and operational requirements of each nuke plant) requires off site power, the power from the grid, be available to run the cooling pumps and other critical safety equipment. If this power becomes unavailable the plant must shut down. If off site power is unavailable for an extended period of time, a few days, the back up emergency diesel generators must be used to remove the fuel rods from the core and put in the spent fuel pool. The back up emergency diesel have fuel for only a few days.


Videos of line insulators flashing over and transformers burning for days after a catastrophic internal failure can be seen on the web by doing a web search. These videos are made when energized equipment has failed during an event such as a lighting strike or other equipment failures not caused by a terrorist attack. If terrorists flew a  drone into a line insulator the same kind of destruction will happen. The resulting fire ball would consume the drone and destroy the line insulator. A drone attack on an energized transformer bushing would likewise short out the bushing. The resulting fire ball would destroy the bushing. The destruction of the bushing would likely damage the windings inside the transformer. Any damage to the windings destroys the transformer.

Large Cities are Prime Terrorist Targets

  • Northeast corridor roughly from Boston to Washington DC.  This region  is the most densely populated in the Country and imports most of its power over long, venerable transmission grids. The extra high voltage National Grid which is supposed to move green power thousands of miles from the West, Midwest, and Canada  is built mostly in very isolated areas.  A  long duration power outage in the Northeast Corridor would  also have the most damaging impact  to far away parts of the country which never lost power
  • Chicago is particularly venerable because most of it’s power is also imported. In addition to power generated in plants located in Northern Illinois,  a significant part of Chicago’s  power is  transmitted over  hundreds or thousands of miles of transmission lines located in rural parts of the upper Midwest and Canada.
  •  California imports most of its power from States as far away as Texas, Wyoming  and Oregon.  San Diego had a total blackout initiated by a minor maintenance error several states away which caused the automatic shutting down of multiple transmission lines by normal grid protection system operations which were in place to prevent overloading grid transformer

Addition Reading

  • A search of the internet will result in many articles and papers, some dating back a dozen years or more, detailing the vulnerability of the nation’s transmission grid,  minor attacks on the grid that have already happened as well as the consequences to people and the economy of a large scale attack.
  • One paper states that if only 1% of all the bombs dropped by the US Army Air Corps on Germany during WWII had been dropped on the German electric transmission grid the German economy would have collapsed. The German war machine would have been severely  crippled. The paper explains the reason the German transmission grid was not bombed was the Allies grossly under estimated the Grid’s vulnerability to an aerial attack.
  • The US Federal government has been issuing regulations for several years requiring Electric Utility Companies  to improve the security of their transmission grid. Unfortunately most of the Federal regulations are directed to cybersecurity which is a minor operational risk compared to a physical attack on the critical infrastructure.

The Federal Government Energy Department and their State counterparts are repeating the mistakes of the Allies during WWII only this time the US power grid will be on the receiving end of the aerial attacks.

Terrorists are looking for soft targets to attack. The transmission grid is the ultimate soft target. The transmission grid is the ultimate soft target because of the easy at which it can be disabled and the enormous damage caused by knocking out power to the target city.  The effect of blacking out one major city will be devastating to  the entire country



How the Nations Power System Works and Why It Is Vulnerable to Attack

Why did three Hurricanes cause such extensive damage to separate electric grids that it may take months to restore full power? With the exception of a few thousand field technicians and a handful of field engineers no one else in the general population, the Government, Universities, and most working for the Utilities don’t  really understand how the power system works; what function each component performs, equipment fail modes, how to repair  damage, how to restore power. Because They don’t understand they don’t know  how easy it is to destroy key components of the power system. The most vulnerable part is the high voltage transmission grid.

The Electric Power  system is the largest, most expensive, and complex infrastructure in the country. A very simple model of the power system is that it has  three basic components; power generation. power transmission, and power distribution. All three components operate together and must be in balance for the system to operate.  Electricity travels through the transmission and distribution systems at nearly the speed of light. Power generated at power stations is consumed instantaneously at the load.  The voltage and frequency of the entire system must be kept within very tight tolerances or the system will become unstable and collapse. It does not take many key equipment failures to cause the system to become unstable. As few a three key high voltage transmission grid equipment  failures is suffient.

Power transmission, the high voltage transmission grid, connects the generating stations to the load, the users of electric energy. Without the transmission grid power plants can not operate because the energy they generate must be consumed instantaneously. That can not happen because without the high voltage grid  the energy is not getting to the low voltage power distribution network and the load.

Personal Survival Plan

Each person or  family needs to develop a Personal Survival Plan which addresses all survival needs for those individuals in the event of a successful terrorist attack that knocks out electric power to one or more target cities.

Complete Self sufficiency for one for up to one year should be everyone’s goal

When developing your survival plan Think what you will need to have to survive if the year were suddenly 1817 instead of 2017

The Present Reality in the Target Cities

  • There are no  credible recovery plans or  sufficient stockpiling of emergency supplies; food, water, medical supplies, fuel for police, fire, sanitation  vehicles, etc  by government agencies at all levels.
  • Nowhere in the country can the flood of desperate refugees from the target cities be accommodated without causing chaotic conditions for both the refugees and the people living in the areas the refugees flee to.
  • This situation is not likely to change until after the terrorist have struck

The closer you are to the target city the greater your threat of survival. Local, State and Federal agencies will be concentrating their resources in the target city to provide millions with basic necessities and security. They will be overwhelmed. Chaos and widespread lawlessness will force those that can to flee. These refugees will be hungry, thirsty and homeless. Refugees will want what you have.

The Survival Plan should include Preparations in Those Areas Listed Below Appropriate to your situation

click on the categories for details

To minimize the exposure of your home to attacks by criminals and desperate refugees do not tell anyone that you are making disaster preparations or stockpiling supplies

No one wants to have to implement a personal survival plan and possibly have to defend yourself, your family, and your survival stockpile with force. Though it is not possible to stop a well planned, determined terrorist attack it is possible put in place measures to reduce the damage of such an attack, see the post Countermeasures.



Countermeasures can be taken to protect critical grid infrastructure from extensive damage.  Other countermeasures can significantly shorten the duration of a city-wide blackout.

1.  Protect  the transmission Grid Command and Control System from Cyber Attack

  • Cyber, internet based, threats to the high voltage power grid are easily eliminated by using secure communications channels already in place and in use
  • Utilities use the internet as a convenient way to monitor and control critical grid infrastructure then spend $Billions on cybersecurity protecting the infrastructure from cyber attackers
  • There is no requirement to use the internet for command and control communication of the transmission grid
  • Fiber optic cables are 100% secure from Cyber attacks and interconnect every critical infrastructure substation. These optical cables  should be used as the primary communication channel for the grid command and control system. Power line carrier which uses the power lines to transmit data can also be used. Power line carrier is almost as secure and reliable as fiber optic cable.
  • There are 2 shield wires strung on the top cross arm of each transmission tower above the power cables on every critical infrastructure transmission line. The shield wires are  used to protect the power lines from a lightening strike. The shied wires each contain in their center multiple optical cables which have  virtually unlimited bandwidth for communications between substations.

2.  Improve the Physical Protection of critical grid infrastructure

     Critical grid infrastructure transformers

  • Transformers (and generators at a power plant) can be destroyed by repeated, rapid (every few seconds) energization and deenergization. This can be prevented by blocking further operations of the circuit breakers that connect transformers  to the grid after  the number of circuit breaker  operations that may be part of a intentional protective relaying scheme to clear a temporary faults have accorded . Reprograming  the computer controlled relay to limit each circuit breaker successive operation would take a few minutes.
  • Without detailed information on how the transmission system is designed and operated a terrorist Cyber Attacker will not know which circuit breakers need to be operated, opened and closed, repeatedly every few seconds,  to damage critical transformers and power plant generators. To safeguard this critical data  store the grid design and operating data on a secure computer isolated from the internet.
  • Enclosing entire critical infrastructure substations in high concrete walls as is now being done is counter productive and will not protect the critical transformers from an aerial attack. The walls will identify to the terrorists which transformers and transmission lines they should target for maximum damage.
  • reinforced enclosure around only the critical transformer. The enclosures should be capable of stopping high powered rifle projectiles up to  50 cal. The enclosure should protect the transformer and bushings from an aerial attack by drones, ultra light aircraft and private aircraft capable of carrying explosive devices and incendiary devices. Enclosing the transformers will require modifying the existing cooling accessories.
  • RPG screens around the transformers to provide protection  from RPG shaped charges

    Critical High Voltage Transmission Lines

There is no practical way of protecting long, exposed transmission lines from a successful attack

  • Surrounding critical infrastructure substations in high concrete walls as is bring do in parts of the country will only identify for the terrorist which transmission line to target.
  • The best way to respond to an attack is by creating rapid response teams to quickly replace damaged insulators.  Where possible Use helicopters for “live wire” repair crews

3.  Shorten Power Restoration Time

  • Preposition essential equipment needed to repair damaged critical grid infrastructure
  • Inventory all essential equipment that can not be prepositioned and be able to move that equipment to where it is needed quickly

4.  Upgrade the Grid Design

There are two design changes that will make the cities much less vulnerable to devastating extended power outages.

  1. Change the transmission grid to a high voltage network similar to the power distribution networks in large cities. This will make the operators of the high voltage network  able to reroute power around destroyed critical assets and continue to supply power to much more of the load than is currently possible.
  2. Replace remote large based loaded generation plants with multiple local small distributed generation plants and even smaller microgrids
  • Building more long,  unprotected transmission lines to the target cities from remote wind farms, solar generating facilities, hydroelectric generating plants increases the vulnerability of these cities to blackouts. Use the money spent on these long distance transmission lines instead to upgrade the transmission local transmission grid currently supplying power to  the target cities
  • The vulnerability of the target cities  is greatly increased by shutting down base load coal and nuclear generating plants located near the target cities .
  • The current carrying capacities of the individual transmission lines making up the local  transmission grid supplying power to the target cities needs to be increased significantly so that if multiple transmission lines are disabled the remaining transmission lines can supply enough power to prevent wide spread blackouts.
  • The individual local  transmission lines that make up the transmission grid for the target  city should be interconnected so that sufficient power can be rerouted  to prevent wide spread blackouts
  • Power generating plants including large base loaded plants to small solar and wind distributed generation should be located within the target cities so that the critical transmission grid can be buried and thus protected from a terrorist attack


Unfortunately most of these countermeasures  will not be implemented at all or implemented in a manner that they will be minimally effective. The reasons are not technical. The reasons are ideology, personal self-interest, and profits.

  • Ideology-there are many people who believe what they had been repeatedly told that global warming is the number one threat to human survival. Global warming is man made because of the burning of fossil fuels. Therefore stop burning fossil fuels and produce electric power with green energy, solar and wind and humanity is saved. Man made global warming is a symptom of and a diversion from the  real danger to human survival – out of control world population growth. Humans are becoming locust. Destroying the planet; forests, wildlife habitat, polluting lakes, rivers, oceans, all  to house and feed the billions who are increasing many millions every month.
  • Personal self-interest – people, particularly the East and West coast cities and surrounding urban areas,  don’t want to have their valuable land used for power generation. They would much prefer to have vast wind and solar power generating facilities built (it makes them feel good they are saving the plant) in far away rural areas and imported to them over long high voltage transmission systems. The people on the coasts  benefit in many ways from this arrangement.  They pay lower energy costs compared to the expensive local base-loaded power plants they are forcing to be shut down. They also don’t pay to build the transmission systems. The rate payers in the rural areas pay through the Facilities Charges on their monthly bill the $ billions to build the high voltage transmission systems they don’t need or want.
  • Profits– the federal government makes building and operating the long high voltage transmission systems to transmit green power from the rural areas to the cities very profitable (10.5% to over 14% return on investment) for Electric Utilities. So profitable too often the Utilities to maximize their profits build these transmission systems instead of making needed repairs and upgrades to the local state transmission and distribution systems. To make matters worse, too many state utility regulators, who could disapprove these transmission systems as unnecessary for the local electric energy users, the rate payers whose interests they are suppose to be protecting, are more interested in pleasing the Utility Management in the hopes of landing a very high paying job with these Utilities after they finished their appointments to  the Public Utility Commissions.




  • N minus 1 – is the system condition when one major component is unavailable. A major component can be a transmission line or a critical transformer. The letter N meaning the normal system configuration where all components are in service.
  • N minus 2 – is the system condition when a second major system component becomes unavailable  This system condition causes heightened concern that the still operational  parts of the grid might not be sufficient to supply the load resulting in possible brownouts or  blackouts.
  • N minus 3 – is the system condition when a third major component is unavailable. At this point the entire transmission grid can become unstable requiring emergency measures be taken to prevent further equipment damage and the collapse of the entire grid.
  • If the terrorist [click attack] disables three or more major components quickly the entire transmission grid supplying power to the target city will automatically be taken off line by the protective relays blacking out the target city.