By Boris Volkhonsky
The United States’ Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) has unveiled its latest and safest non-lethal weapon. The long-range electromagnetic beam gun was demonstrated to reporters at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia a few days ago.
The Active Denial System also known as a “heat ray” can beam a high-frequency man-size electromagnetic wave to a distance of 1,000 meters. It can be mounted on a vehicle and used to control and disperse crowds.
The Pentagon first showcased the ADS in 2007. U.S. Marines in Iraq were supposed to get it by 2008. Instead, for reasons that were not explained, it was deployed in Afghanistan for a short while in 2010 but never employed in an operation. By now, the technology is mature and ready for use. It took the U.S. military 15 years and $120 million to create and test what they claim to be the safest non-lethal weapon ever built. The ADS has been tested on more than 11,000 people, of whom only two sustained second-degree burns. And in both cases the injuries were recovered without complications. The ray doesn’t cause cancer, nor does it cause fertility problems or birth defects, researchers say. And injury risks are far lower compared to other non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets or tear gas.
The heat ray cannot be seen, heard or smelled. It can only be felt. The effect resembles that of opening a hot oven – the immediate instinct is to flee as quickly and as far as one can, JNWLD Director Marine Colonel Tracy Taffola told reporters at the presentation.
A question arises where and how this weapon is going to be used? One reason why it has not been tested in Iraq is probably that the U.S. command has a wide range of other means at its disposal from burning the Qurans and urinating on corpses to drone strikes and mass shootings of civilians.
But perhaps it will be used against Americans inside the U.S.? Earlier, U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder said that the killing of terror suspects, including American individuals, who posed an immediate threat but could no be captured, was lawful and justified. And although he referred to terrorism suspects abroad, the U.S. authorities may find the “harmless” electromagnetic gun extremely useful at home, for example, to cool down the Occupy Wall Street protesters, while simultaneously testing it in real-life conditions.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies