Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Army gets a Cool Toy...Again

Straight from science fiction, is the microwave gun:

Troops in Iraq will soon be shooting an experimental weapon that fires an invisible beam of energy instead of bullets to repel insurgents without killing civilians.

Millimeter-length radiation fired by the Active Denial System penetrates just below the surface of the skin to cause an excruciating burning sensation until it is turned off. Extensive testing has shown no lasting damage, the military said.

The weapon will be demonstrated in public this summer and in Iraq within months. It is the first in what could become a catalog of energy beams that aim to ease one of the war’s toughest problems.

Troops guarding checkpoints, bases and convoys regularly face oncoming people or vehicles of uncertain intent. Troops open fire rather than risk a bomb attack.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari complained about mistaken shootings to U.S. officials, and the U.S. command in Iraq asked the Pentagon this spring to speed shipment of the non-lethal beam weapons.

The first prototype, developed for the Marines, sits atop a special Humvee that has a hybrid gasoline-electric drivetrain. The propulsion batteries double as a power source for the gun, which looks like a satellite dish and is aimed with a joystick.

“It is not a silver bullet, but it will help our Marines and soldiers from having to go lethal before it’s necessary,” said Sue Payton, deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts.

The ADS is one of a range of “directed-energy” weapons, some dating to president Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” programs. Already being tested in the field are low-power lasers that would temporarily blind opponents.

The ADS follows more than a decade and $50 million of research into millimeter-wave weapons. The Army plans a version for its Stryker vehicles, and the Air Force is developing an airborne variant.

One major concern is public acceptance of the weapon.

“We have tested this thing every way from Sunday” to make sure it’s safe, Payton said, adding that she had insisted scientists fire the gun on a raw egg to make sure the 95-gigahertz beam wouldn’t cook it like a microwave oven.

“Initially, it felt like someone had opened an oven door, and you felt a rush of heat,” said Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the Air Force Research Labs, who was one of hundreds of test subjects. “Within milliseconds, it became intolerable.”

I want one!


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