The Marines recently held recent a demonstration to the press of their latest iteration of their Active Denial System (ADS). The ADS is a truck-mounted powerful and extremely safe less-than-lethal weapon that can be used effectively against multiple targets out to 1,000 yards.
The ADS is a high-intensity millimeter radio wave projector that can be directionally projected at crowds or mobs to promote dispersal by producing the “goodbye effect”. “You’re not gonna see it, you’re not gonna hear it, you’re not gonna smell it: you’re gonna feel it,” explained US Marine Col. Tracy Taffola, director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, VA.
The way it works is similar to the way a microwave works, by agitating fat and water molecules they heat immediately causing intense pain. But because the beam operates at 95GHz, as opposed to the microwave’s 2.45, the wave can only travel 0.67mm into the skin, with the majority of the energy absorbed in the first 0.4mm, or 15 thousands of an inch of skin.
Prolonged exposure can still cause secondary burns, with some people getting small blisters. Mostly it just makes people scream and run away. To put things into perspective, Senior Strategic Planner at the United States Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate Diana Loree said, “We have done over 11,000 exposures on people. In that time we’ve only had two injuries that required medical attention and in both cases injuries were fully recovered without complications.” She added, “With the transmitter, a wave 100 times the power of a regular microwave oven cannot pop a bag of popcorn because the radio frequency is not penetrating enough to heat enough to internally heat the material.” There have only been six cases of blistering.
Briefly the ADS project was cancelled in 2009, but the underlying technology was too impressive to let go of entirely. Its promise led to its resurrection.
This latest-generation vehicle-mounted ADS is designed with extreme safety in mind and cannot be fired for more than three seconds in a burst. The longest exposure ever tolerated was five seconds. The ADS is considered to be one of the safest less-than-lethal weapon ever designed, without the high risks of asphyxia, anaphylaxis, blunt force trauma or heart failure associated with other less-than-lethal weapons, and far exceeds their effective range.
This joint in-house project is now ready for duty; a prototype was deployed to Afghanistan briefly in 2010, but was never actually fielded or used. The military developers are just waiting for the Pentagon to give them the thumbs up. Until then, they will be continuing their research to next develop a compact, man-portable Active Denial System.
What are your thoughts about military area-suppressing pain-inflicting energy weapons?