19 July 2010

US Soldiers Issued Ray Guns in Afghanistan

A new weapon, the Active Denial System (or just plain old ADS if you are in a hurry, which if you are a soldier in Afghanistan you may just well be) has been dispatched to troops in the country torn apart by years of conflict.

When deployed the vehicle-mounted weapon emits a focused heated beam.  Fans of science fiction shows might be a little disappointed to learn that the heat rays are invisible (a nice shade of ruby would have been nice) – but while this is true they certainly give the target something to think about.

They cause an unendurable feeling of high temperature on the skin which must be immediately relieved (by vacating the area) but leaves no permanent damage.

Yet to be used on the battlefield or indeed in cases of public disorder either in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the Active Denial System has undergone thorough tests on home soil in the US.  It seems the system actively denies pretty well, with those exposed to it saying that the need to get away from its heat ray was quickly of paramount importance.

How does it work? The beam breaks the surface of the skin to a tiny depth, no more than a few pieces of paper thick.  This, however, is more than enough to reach nerve endings and burn them, so causing pain.  Lots of it.  People that the ADS is aimed at quickly retire to a safe distance, such is the discomfort.

According to the US military there is so little chance of injury from the system (a tenth of a percent) that it will not cause long lasting harm to those against whom it is used.

It has been tested on people – hundreds of volunteers – and the beam can reach more than five hundred meters.  The army sees it is an important new way to limit deaths in a war zone.  It could also be used domestically in the future, of course.  Which is a worry.

The great question is, of course, is how easily can the weapon be changed to go from non-lethal to deadly?

Boy oh boy.  This in the same week that a US Navy laser successfully shot down four UAVs off the California coastline.  Perhaps Thunderbird are 'Go', after all.

Additional Image Credits
Technicians with ADS
Humvee Mounted Active Denial System