Was Flight 800 Felled by EMP?
03/12/2001 Ian Williams Goddard
Official investigators of the crash of TWA Flight 800 dismissed witness accounts of a missile strike  because the only causal evidence officials report suggests that an electrical surge, not a missile, ignited the center fuel tank. However, could there be a type of missile warhead that works by inducing a powerful electrical surge? Yes. Five years before the crash the Navy began developing a missile with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead designed work by inducing a damaging surge within the electronic systems of a target aircraft.
The official crash report neither explored nor ruled out the possibility of an EMP warhead.  This Goddard's Journal report introduces and explores the hypothesis that the missile that witnesses saw streaking toward Flight 800 had an EMP warhead that would produce the same electronics damage official investigators claim refutes the missile theory.
The best theory is one that explains most of the evidence. An EMP-warhead theory would explain both (a) the eyewitness accounts of a missile streaking toward Flight 800 and (b) the physical evidence of an electrical surge-induced fuel tank explosion. An EMP-warhead theory may explain more of the evidence in the Flight 800 case than any other theory.
Surface-To-Air EMP Warheads
The Navy's anti-aircraft EMP warhead program began in 1991 (Fiscal Year 1992) and live-fire tests began in 1994 (FY95) -- two years before the Flight 800 crash. Also known as a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) warhead, denoting the physics used to induce EMP, the warhead is apparently intended to destroy the guidance system on another missile. The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems 1997-1998 states:
The February 1991 budget (FY92/93) included initial work on a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) warhead. Such a weapon would presumably generate an intense electromagnetic pulse, to burn out the circuits on board an attacking weapon. The FY95  program began overwater tests against representative seekers. 
There is very little information about that Navy program available to the public. There are a few study abstracts on the Internet referring to the use of MHD-EMP as a weapon.  Additionally, the US Patent Office has a patent that was filed in 1986 for an MHD technology advancement to be used with MHD anti-aircraft warheads. The following illustration of an MHD anti-aircraft missile was included with that patent. 
While civilians may never be able to prove that an MHD missile was fired off Long Island on July 17, 1996 -- downing Flight 800 by inducing an electrical surge that ignited its center fuel tank -- we do know that the technology was filed with the Patent Office ten years before the crash and that the Navy began developing it five years before the crash and then began testing it two year before the crash. A Freedom of Information Request shall be submitted by this author for more information on the Navy's MHD warhead program.
The Electromagnetic-Interference Hypothesis
The possibility that Flight 800 was destroyed by electromagnetic interference from the external environment was first proposed by Elaine Scarry, a professor at Harvard University.  Scarry's hypothesis proposes that electromagnetic energy from one or more of the many military and civilian aircraft, ships, and radar facilities in the area may have been sufficient to induce a surge in Flight 800's wiring that entered and ignited the center fuel tank.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had NASA test Scarry's hypothesis. NASA concluded that the maximum energy in the aircraft from the dominant EM emitter in the area was much less than the of minimum energy allegedly required to ignite the center fuel tank.  However, NASA published a follow-up paper expressing uncertainties about those conclusions, leaving open the possibility that external EM interference may have played a role in the crash.  NASA neither explored nor ruled out the possibility that the missile that witnesses saw may have been an EMP missile capable of causing a surge-induced fuel-vapor explosion.
Electrical Damage To Flight 800
The detonation of an EMP warhead can induce a massive surge in nearby electronic systems, causing widespread damage. The official Flight 800 report cites many examples suggesting a widespread electrical surge. The report cites evidence of arcing in wires running below the cabin floor, in wires near the forward wing spar, in APU battery cables, and on fuselage frames.  Fuselage structures behind the cockpit had blackened areas near electrical ground-studs and wire routing.  Officials also report evidence indicating an electrical surge passed through wiring in the fuel quantity indicator system that enters the center fuel tank, which may have ignited the tank. And then look at this photo:
An EMP warhead is specifically designed to burn out a target's circuits. The photo above from the official Flight 800 report shows what clearly appears to be burned-out circuit boards from cockpit flight engineer station. Text below the photo notes "darkened areas on circuit cards."  That photo stands by itself in the official report, without explanation or discussion that I can find about the remarkable electronics damage it shows from a location that was untouched by the fuel explosions. The next photo shows burning on a metal panel adjacent to wiring, evidence of surge-induced arching. 
The next photos show what officials believe to be burn damage caused by an electrical surge in one of the fuel quantity probes that entered the center fuel tank. The exterior surface of the probe showed no sign of burning. Only electronic components inside the probe showed signs of burning, in patterns indicative of a surge. The first photo in the row of four shows the probe, which suffered impact deformation. The next three photos show some of the burnt components that were inside the probe before it was cut open. 
Center fuel tank probe on left. Surge-damaged components inside it on right.
The official report also shows other electronic components from Flight 800 with surge-type damage. The fact that evidence of surge-induced damage was so widespread suggests that the electrical problem was not a local short circuit but rather a powerful system-wide electrical surge, just as would be expected to result from an external EMP attack.
Discussion: On the other hand, the NTSB's report cites many circuits and electronic components from Flight 800 that were not burned out. One might expect that a powerful EMP event would destroy all circuits. Furthermore, EMP weapons are known to erase information on electronic storage media, however, data on both the cockpit voice recorder and fight data recorder survived the crash. Would an EMP warhead damage only some electronic components and not others?
Multiple factors effect the survivability of electronics under EMP attack. The text EMP Interactions Principles, Techniques, and Reference Data states "Most electronic components in conventional all-metal aircraft can be viewed as having two principle electromagnetic shielding surfaces. The first principle shield is provided by the metal skin of the aircraft, and the second is provided by the metal equipment cases."  However, the text states that those shields can be compromised by holes such as windows and things like wires and antenna passing from the exterior to the interior of the shield, which can carry external EMP into internal electronics. Many other factors effect EMP survivability. Once EMP penetrates the fuselage, the pulse can send a surge along internal wires into otherwise protected areas.
Because many variables such as being closer to a window can increases the likelihood of a component suffering EMP damage,  it follows that the distribution of EMP damage across an aircraft can be nonuniform, leaving some components more damaged than others. Furthermore, the same text notes that newer digital circuits used in modern aircraft are actually more vulnerable to EMP than older analog circuits.  Having been built in the 1960's, the aircraft that was Flight 800 may have still had some of the older EMP-resistant circuits, allowing some circuits to survive.
Most significantly, the Naval Institute Guide quoted above indicates that the Navy's MHD-EMP warhead is intended to kill other missiles by damaging their guidance systems. The EMP power necessary to knock-out all circuits on, for example, a cruise missile would be much less than the energy necessary to knock-out all circuits on a 747 jumbo jet, which is several hundred times larger than a cruise missile. So an EMP missile designed to kill other missiles might not have the energy necessary to knock-out all circuits on a jumbo jet. Also, the variable proximity of warhead detonation to the aircraft would effect EMP intensity.
In short, because multiple variables, more than are covered here, determine the probability that a given electrical component will survive an EMP event, it stands to reason that a large target would suffer variable damage across its systems, as appears to have been the case with Flight 800.
Conclusion: Elaine Scarry's electromagnetic interference (EMI) theory has been given respectful consideration by major media and officials, yet it is more likely that an EMP weapon would induce a powerful electronic surge than the relatively weak EMI from other aircraft and radars. Therefore, if the EMI theory is plausible to any degree (as has been allowed), the EMP-warhead theory must be even more plausible, given that there are numerous eyewitness accounts of a missile strike.
The best theory about the cause of an incident is the theory that explains most of the evidence. A theory that explains both (a) physical damage to Flight 800 and (b) eyewitness accounts is necessarily better than a theory that explains only one or the other. By offering an explanation for both physical damage and witness accounts, the EMP-warhead theory may be the best theory about the cause of the Flight-800 crash.
 FIRO: The Eyewitness Evidence of Flight 800.
 NTSB Public Exhibits & Final Report, Appendices.
 The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems 1997-1998. Norman Friedman. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1997, page 411.
 Abstracts citing use of HMD-EMP as weapon, a, b, c.
 US Patent Office, Patent No. 5,251,550.
 Swissair 111, TWA 800, and Electromagnetic Interference. Elaine Scarry. September 21, 2000.
 NTSB Public Exhibit 9A, Addendum NASA EMI Study, Appendix A, page 141.
 Some notes on sparks and ignition of fuels -NASA/TM-2000-210077.
 NTSB Public Exhibit 9A, page 47.
 NTSB Public Exhibit 9A, Addendum FQIS Photos, page 13 (not at NTSB website. Contact NTSB (800-877-6799) for Flight 800 CD).
 NTSB Public Exhibit 9E, page 2 (not at NTSB site).
 NTSB Public Exhibit 9A, Addendum, Reexamination of Fuel Probes, pages 22, 24, 31, and 32.
 EMP Interactions: Principles, Techniques, and Reference Data. K. S. H. Lee. Washington: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1986, page 682.
 Ibid., pages 698-700.
 Ibid., page 678.