Pentagon Unveils New Electromagnetic Weapon for Crowd Control

Last month the P.R.-conscious Pentagon proudly unveiled what is supposed to be the perfect nonlethal crowd control device – a high-powered energy beam that can disperse an unruly mob without killing, maiming, or harming anyone.

Last month the P.R.-conscious Pentagon proudly unveiled what is supposed to be the perfect nonlethal crowd control device – a high-powered energy beam that can disperse an unruly mob without killing, maiming, or harming anyone.

Military brass are touting it as the biggest breakthrough in war technology since the nuclear bomb. Known officially as a “Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System,” this new weapon is said to be more humane and more effective than other methods of controlling a large crowd or stopping aggressive intruders dead in their tracks.



Here’s how it works. A special transmitter fires two-second bursts of focused microwave energy that causes burning sensations on the skin of people up to 700 yards away. But no one gets fried and no telltale burn marks linger on the body because the beam only penetrates just beneath the skin’s surface at a depth of 1/64th of an inch. Targets of this concentrated electromagnetic pulse briefly experience intense pain and confusion, prompting
them to leave the area in hurry.

“It’s safe, absolutely safe. You walk out of the beam and the pain goes away. There are no lasting effects,” said Colonel George Fenton, who demonstrated the new gadget last month at the
Pentagon’s nonlethal weapons center in Quantico, Virginia.

The actual zapper, which looks something like a backyard satellite dish mounted on top of an armored car, is still in the experimental phase. Handheld and aircraft-mounted applications are also on the drawing board.

Thus far, ten years of research and $40 million have been devoted to this project, which critics have likened to a militarized version of a microwave oven. Developed by the Raytheon Corporation and several other Defense Department contractors, it is currently being field-tested on soldiers at the Kirkland Air
Force Base in New Mexico. But it is not expected to be ready for deployment by troops for at least five years.

Zap-happy Pentagon strategists envision using the “Active Denial System” in various operational settings where a small number of
American troops or military police might be confronted by a horde of angry civilians. Border patrols, “peacekeeping” missions, urban riots, and domestic disturbances have been flagged as situations in which such a device could prove handy. Best of all, it won’t result in bloody television images of people shot and mutilated by conventional arms.

Author: Martin A. Lee (martin@sfbg.com)

News Service: the San Francisco Bay Guardian

URL: http://www.sfbg.com/reality/22.html