Reuters via Yahoo, Jul 20, 2005
Scientists are questioning the safety of a Star Wars-style riot control ray gun
due to be deployed in Iraq 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 people caught in the beam will rapidly try to move out of it and
therefore break up the crowd.
But New Scientist magazine reported on 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?," he added.
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.