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(Updated) Non-Lethal Nonsense

11:27 AM, Aug 30, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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WWS pal Christian Lowe has an interesting post up at Defense Tech on the Active Denial System, aka the Pain Ray. The system got a fair bit of play in the news early this year when the Pentagon invited camera crews to witness an Army test of the device and "almost cooked an AP reporter." Christian reports:

Well, it looks like commanders in Iraq have been pleading for the device, which is pretty far along in its development. But fearing the post-Taser backlash from some groups, the Pentagon denied the technology in favor of more lethal methods...

It seems this is the sort of catch-22 the military is in when it comes to non-lethals. The devices conjure up grim images of pain and discomfort when you look at what they do, so groups object to them often on human rights grounds and ethics.

Go read the whole thing, it includes a note from one of the engineers who developed the system and is "convinced that the tragedy at Fallujah would not have occurred if an Active Denial System had been there."

This latest flap over non-lethal weapons brings to mind a similar situation that developed over the "green beam designator," which allowed soldiers to temporarily blind drivers approaching a checkpoint. There were repeated calls to deploy the device to Iraq, but fear of a backlash, as well as a 1995 UN agreement banning the use of lasers that could permanently blind, prevented the device from being rapidly put into the field. It has since made its way to Iraq, but like the Pain Ray, concerns about misuse and the possibility of relatively minor injuries were allowed to slow the process. Of course, the only other option available to most soldiers working a military checkpoint is an M-16 or a .50 cal--weapons that are likely to do much worse than blind the target.

This system has the potential to peacefully diffuse a situation that might otherwise spin violently out of control (OR NOT--SEE UPDATE BELOW). It'd be a shame if American troops weren't given access because of some Pentagon fear of lawsuits.

The promo for ADS

Update: Bill Sweetman has an alternate explanation for the Pentagon's failure to deploy the ADS. Click here to read it. The bottom line is that Iraq is apparently too hot for this technology:

The ADS, as we learned at an IQPC Defense conference in London in February, generates its millimeter-waves (not goolie-toasting microwaves) with the help of a commercial-technology gyrotron, an assembly of superconducting magnets which won't do its voodoo unless it is cooled to 4 degrees Kelvin - that is, a smidge above absolute zero and somewhat colder than a June day in International Falls.

The Humvee-mounted version that we've all seen can't carry a cooling system big enough to do the job on more than a 95-degree day. So ADS works fine in San Francisco, and would work in International Falls if anyone could be bothered to leave Rudy's Saloon for long enough to demonstrate about anything, but is not that much use in the Sandbox.

I must defer to Sweetman.