Now, drone that can cripple a nation's electronics at the touch of a button
Scientists have turned fantasy into reality by developing a missile that targets buildings with microwaves that disable computers but don't harm people.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing successfully tested the weapon on a one-hour flight during which it knocked out the computers of an entire military compound in the Utah desert.
It is thought that the missile could penetrate the bunkers and caves believed to be hiding Iran's suspected nuclear facilities.
But experts have warned that, in the wrong hands, the technology could be used to bring Western cities such as London to their knees.
During Boeing's experiment, the missile flew low over the Utah Test and Training Range, discharging electromagnetic pulses on to seven targets, permanently shutting down their electronics.
Boeing said that the test was so successful even the camera recording it was disabled.
Codenamed the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), it is the first time a missile with electromagnetic pulse capability has been tested.
For security reasons, Boeing declined to release film of the test, but instead issued an artist's impression of it on video.
In the clip, a stealth aircraft deploys a missile that emits radio waves from its undercarriage which knock out the computer systems inside the buildings below.
The company did release real film showing a row of computers that can be seen shutting down when the electromagnetic pulse is switched on.
Although the project is shrouded in secrecy, experts believe that the missile is equipped with an electromagnetic pulse cannon. This uses a super-powerful microwave oven to generate a concentrated beam of energy which causes voltage surges in electronic equipment, rendering them useless before surge protectors have the chance to react.
Keith Coleman, CHAMP programme manager for Boeing's prototype arm Phantom Works, said the technology marked "a new era in modern warfare."
"In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy's electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive," the Daily Mail quoted Coleman as saying.
"We hit every target we wanted and made science fiction into science fact. When the computers went out, it actually took out the cameras as well. It was fantastic," he said.
The project, which has cost 24 million pounds, has been developed on behalf of the US Air Force Research Laboratory following a request from the Pentagon four years ago.
"We're not quite at the place where the Star Trek and Star Wars movies are but this is definitely an advancement in technology able to give us an opportunity to do things we could not do before," lead test engineer Peter Finlay said.