A demonstration model of the
Active Denial System is shown mounted on a military vehicle
LONDON - Scientists are questioning the safety of a "Star Wars"-style
ray gun due to be deployed in Iraq for riot control next year.
The Active Denial System weapon, classified as “less lethal” by
the Pentagon, fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam at rioters to cause heating
and intolerable pain in less than five seconds.
The idea is that people caught in the beam will rapidly try to move out of
it and therefore break up the crowd.
But New Scientist magazine reported Wednesday that during tests carried out at
Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, participants playing the part of rioters
were told to remove glasses and contact lenses to protect their eyes.
In another test, they were also told to remove metal objects like coins from
their clothing to avoid local hot spots developing on their skin.
“What happens if someone in a crowd is unable for whatever reason to
move away from the beam,” asked Neil Davison, coordinator of the non-lethal
weapons research project at Britain’s Bradford University. “How
do you ensure that the dose doesn’t cross the threshold for permanent
damage? Does the weapon cut out to prevent overexposure?”
The magazine said a vehicle-mounted version of the weapon named Sheriff was
scheduled for service in Iraq in 2006, and that U.S. Marines and police were
both working on portable versions.