- The nonlethal weapon, which can be mounted on a military vehicle, is primarily designed for crowd control
- Weapon has been tested on more than 11,000 people, and in just two of those cases, it caused second-degree burns
By Jill Reilly
PUBLISHED: 15:35 EST, 11 March 2012 | UPDATED: 20:56 EST, 11 March 2012
The US military have unveiled their infamous non-lethal weapon – an electromagnetic beam of fierce heat.
When the Active Denial System (ADS) is activated, it beams a high-frequency electromagnetic ray beam at a target up to one thousand metres (0.6 miles) away.
Mounted on a military vehicle for crowd control, the waves create a heat so uncomfortable the natural response is to flee.
AFP Pentagon Correspondent Mathieu Rabechult checks his hair that got a zap of energy after standing in front and taking hit of the Active Denial System at the US Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia
‘This is the safest nonlethal capability that we have,’ said Director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Col. Tracy Tafolla.
‘You’re not going to see it, you’re not going to hear it, you’re not going to smell it. You’re going to feel it,’ she added.
Military leaders and researchers demonstrated the system at the weekend to the media at the US Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
Several journalists stepped forward to test the heat – which is said to feel like a hot oven – with amusing results.
After the demonstration, AFP Pentagon Correspondent Mathieu Rabechult checked his hair that got a zap of energy when standing in front and taking hit of the ADS.
US Marine Corps volunteers in plain clothes tossed tennis balls to simulate rocks during the ADS assault demonstration – the heat ray was activated and the protesters ran away.
The ADS prototype was cancelled in 2008 but deployed in Afghanistan two years later.
Ms Tafolla says the system has now advanced and is ready to be rolled out when necessary, although the Pentagon has yet to place an order.
Classed as a ‘counter personnel’ weapon, it is used ‘to deny access into/out of an area to individuals’ by firing ‘an invisible electromagnetic millimetre-wave energy beam beyond small arms range’ from a jeep.
It is rumoured that the Pentagon wants to build an airborne version of this weapon.
Susan LeVine, the directorate’s principal deputy director for policy and strategy explained the availability of the heat ray gives users the ‘option between shouting and shooting.’
Risks of injury are far lower than other non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets or pepper spray.
To minimise accidents, the operator’s trigger, has an automatic shut-off after 3 seconds for safety.
Stephanie Miller, who works for the Air Force Research Laboratory said when the weapon was tested on more than 11,000 people, it only caused second-degree burns on two people.
Despite raising issues of health concerns, according to Ms Miller, researchers have determined the ray doesn’t cause cancer cancer, or fertility problems or birth defects.
The beam is often confused with the microwaves used by consumers to heat food, but the beam only goes 1/64th of an inch (0.4 millimeter), which ‘gives a lot more safety.’
But microwave frequency is around one gigahertz, which moves faster and penetrates deeper.
The reflex urge to run from the heat has been universal, according to programmme manager Brian Long said.
Uses put forward for the system to be employed, include perimeter security to protect a base and crowd control as well as an effective way to stop a speeding car without destroying it.
‘I think it’s applicable wherever you want an alternative to lethal force,’ Mr Long said.
According to the programme officials, the Department of Defence has spent about $120 million (£76 million) on the system, with most of the funding going towards research on the biological effects.