[Paleopsych] NS: Details of US microwave-weapon tests revealed

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Fri Jul 22 19:12:56 UTC 2005

Details of US microwave-weapon tests revealed
[Thanks to Laird for this.]

      * 22 July 2005
      * David Hambling

    VOLUNTEERS taking part in tests of the Pentagon's "less-lethal"
    microwave weapon were banned from wearing glasses or contact lenses
    due to safety fears. The precautions raise concerns about how safe the
    Active Denial System (ADS) weapon would be if used in real
    crowd-control situations.

    The ADS fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which is supposed to heat
    skin and to cause pain but no physical damage (New Scientist, 27
    October 2001, p 26). Little information about its effects has been
    released, but details of tests in 2003 and 2004 were revealed after
    Edward Hammond, director of the US Sunshine Project - an organisation
    campaigning against the use of biological and non-lethal weapons -
    requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The tests were carried out at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque,
    New Mexico. Two experiments tested pain tolerance levels, while in a
    third, a "limited military utility assessment", volunteers played the
    part of rioters or intruders and the ADS was used to drive them away.

    The experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent
    possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests
    removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots
    being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes
    for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots.

    The ADS weapon's beam causes pain within 2 to 3 seconds and it becomes
    intolerable after less than 5 seconds. People's reflex responses to
    the pain is expected to force them to move out of the beam before
    their skin can be burnt.

    But Neil Davison, co-ordinator of the non-lethal weapons research
    project at the University of Bradford in the UK, says controlling the
    amount of radiation received may not be that simple. "How do you
    ensure that the dose doesn't cross the threshold for permanent
    damage?" he asks. "What happens if someone in a crowd is unable, for
    whatever reason, to move away from the beam? Does the weapon cut out
    to prevent overexposure?"

    During the experiments, people playing rioters put up their hands when
    hit and were given a 15-second cooling-down period before being
    targeted again. One person suffered a burn in a previous test when the
    beam was accidentally used on the wrong power setting.

    A vehicle-mounted version of ADS called Sheriff could be in service in
    Iraq in 2006 according to the Department of Defense, and it is also
    being evaluated by the US Department of Energy for use in defending
    nuclear facilities. The US marines and police are both working on
    portable versions, and the US air force is building a system for
    controlling riots from the air.

Related Articles

      * [12]Police toy with 'less lethal' weapons
      * [13]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624975.800
      * 30 April 2005
      * [14]'Agent defeat weapons' ready for use
      * [15]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3419
      * 21 February 2003
      * [16]Microwave beam weapon to disperse crowds
      * [17]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn1470
      * 29 October 2001


      * [18]US Sunshine Project
      * [19]http://www.sunshine-project.org/
      * [20]Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project
      * [21]http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/nlw/
      * [22]Kirtland Air Force Base
      * [23]http://www.kirtland.af.mil/


   12. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624975.800
   13. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624975.800
   14. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3419
   15. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3419
   16. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn1470
   17. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn1470
   18. http://www.sunshine-project.org/
   19. http://www.sunshine-project.org/
   20. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/nlw/
   21. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/nlw/
   22. http://www.kirtland.af.mil/
   23. http://www.kirtland.af.mil/

E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.

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