Pioneering ‘Heat Wave’ Gun May Be Used in Iraq

November 18th, 2007 - by admin

Philip Sherwell & Jacqui Goddard / The Telegraph – 2007-11-18 23:09:42

Pioneering ‘Heat Wave’ Gun May Be Used in Iraq
Philip Sherwell & Jacqui Goddard / The Telegraph

QUANTICO (November 18, 2007) — American commanders in Iraq are urging Pentagon chiefs to authorise the deployment of newly-developed heat wave guns to disperse angry crowds or violent rioters. But the plea for what senior army officers believe could prove a valuable alternative to traditional firepower in dangerous trouble-spots has so far gone unanswered.

Washington fears a barrage of adverse publicity in the suspicious Muslim world and is concerned that critics will claim the invisible beam weapons were being used for torture.

Now the US military directorate charged with developing non-lethal weapons, which has invested more than a decade developing the Active Denial System (ADS), has launched a concerted effort to convince both the public and its own bosses at the defence department of the device’s merits.

“With brand new technology like this, perception is everything,” said Col Kirk Hymes, a former Marine artillery officer who heads the directorate.

He added that tests were almost complete and the first ADS, also known as the Silent Guardian, could be deployed early next year if the Pentagon allows. The decision is so sensitive that it is expected to be made personally by the defence secretary, Robert Gates, who sent senior representatives to the demonstrations.

Raytheon, the company contracted to manufacture the prototype, has also received interest from several undisclosed European countries. The machine displayed last week cost about $10 million to build, but the directorate believes that the ADS can be put into production for $2-$5 million (£1-2.5 million) per device.

Col Hymes told observers at a demonstration that the system was a safe and effective alternative to plastic bullets, which can cause injury and sometimes death and are effective only up to 75 metres.

The heatwave weapon can, by contrast, target troublemakers from 750 metres. It works by dispatching high-powered radio waves from a vehicle antenna, similar to a satellite television dish, causing the molecules in a target’s skin to vibrate violently, creating a burning sensation.

“We are pretty good at shouting and intimidating people and we have been perfecting the art of lethal warfare since Cain and Abel,” he said. “But in places like Iraq we are re-learning that we need a response in the spectrum between shouting and shooting. The ADS provides this.”

But he added: “This is not something we want to roll out and deploy and surprise people. We know we need to educate the public.”

In fact the development of the weapon only became public after the Sunshine Project — a Texas-based group that campaigns against biological and chemical weapons — pushed for disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The group’s director, Edward Hammond, said: “If we are not prepared to use it as a crowd control technique on our own citizens, then we really shouldn’t be using it in Iraq either.”

Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon intelligence officer who is senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch campaign group, was among those invited to feel the device’s impact at a recent demonstration.

He said: “If I had the option of being shot by a bullet or this, I would choose this — but still not enough is known about it. This is novel technology. We’re talking about bringing science fiction into reality and it’s critical to have open discussion.”

He added: “People understand what happens when you get shot with a gun, but with the “pain-ray” there’s still uncertainty. When it’s used, the military is going to have to deal with a public backlash because I’m sure there will be claims of medical problems by the people it’s been used upon, real or not.”

“We are talking about young soldiers having this in their hands. If we upset the civilian population in Iraq, whether by killing, by torture or by misusing this, it will have a strategic effect on the US’s ability to execute effective operations.”

Col Hymes said that all ADS operators were given a six-week training course that covered sophisticated crowd control techniques as well as handling the technology.

Copyright, Telegraph Media Group Limited.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

How I Was Zapped by a Heat Wave Gun
Philip Sherwell / The Telegraph

QUANTICO (November 18, 2007) — On a cold and rain-swept morning on a US marine base, I stood and braced myself to be zapped by the latest prototype weapon in the American armoury — an invisible heat beam from a high-powered ray gun.

The non-lethal device is designed for crowd control and the scientists responsible for monitoring this Star Trek technology had just assured me that I would suffer no harm and only temporary discomfort. But my mind was still conjuring up the impact of a scalding shower or a burning iron as I stared, 500 yards down the firing range, at the unnerving sight of an armoured vehicle with the large antenna dish of its Active Denial System (ADS) pointing directly at me.

Then the officer standing next to me used his radio to call in the strike.

A moment later, jolted by a blast of directed energy delivered at the speed of light, I was squirming, grimacing and heading rapidly for cover — just as intended.

It felt as if I had opened a furnace with my face too close and been hit by a wall of scorching heat. Or, that I had been exposed to a searing draft of air from a huge hair-dryer, turned to extra hot — around 130F, to be precise.

Either way, it was intolerable after just a couple of seconds and I scurried out of the way — fast. But as soon as I escaped the fire zone, the temporary burning sensation subsided, although my skin continued tingling for several minutes.

I was the only British journalist invited by the US military’s Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate to join a small group of reporters and some Pentagon top brass to experience the ADS first-hand at the base in Quantico, Virginia.

The aim was to spread the word that the device, nicknamed the Silent Guardian, is neither sinister nor dangerous. In an age when the US military has been dogged by allegations of torture at secret bases, such perceptions are crucial.

As the weapon’s operator, Senior Airman Robert Hudspeth was the man immediately responsible for my suffering. Sitting in the passenger seat of a Humvee, he had first trained his camera on me, fixing me in the crosshairs on the touch-screen in front of him.

When the driver had separately checked on his own screen that I was the right target, the young airman squeezed the red trigger on a joystick to release the invisible beam of millimetre waves at me from the antenna on the vehicle’s roof.

The energy struck my skin but only penetrated 1/64th inch (the thickness of three sheets of paper).

“It would be very useful technology in the field in Iraq,” said Airman Hudspeth, who has witnessed the need for better ways to control angry and threatening crowds during two tours there.

Earlier, Stephanie Miller, a scientist from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s bio-effects division, had soothingly explained that there would be no undesirable effects, bio or otherwise, from our exposure.

In 10,700 tests conducted over several years, only eight volunteers had experienced blisters — of which six required no medical treatment and the other two healed without complications.

“There’s nothing exotic or strange here,” she said. “It’s just heat.”

Then all we had to do was to sign waiver forms, releasing the US military from any responsibility for our fate when zapped, and we were free to take the heat.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.