Feeling the heat? You will if you are zapped by the military’s Non-Lethal Active Denial System (ADS) slated to enter field testing this summer in Iraq.
This breakthrough looks like airport radar except the one rolled out to the media recently is mounted on a hybrid Humvee. The operator sits in the Humvee, lines up the target and fires off a 95 GHz blast from a 100 kW ultra-high-frequency radio transmitter.
The sensation at the target is akin to taking a heat blast from an opened “oven door,” according to Marine Corps. Col. Kirk Hymes. “This does not incapacitate them. This pushes them back and out of the way,” he says. As such, the unit promises to be another tool for crowd control or for protection of Navy ships.
“Navy ships have curious onlookers who try to push the envelope. But we have a tremendous responsibility to protect the men and women on that ship. When there is mixture of terrorists and tourists and they are not readily moving back, this system can be used to gently push those individuals back. It does not have a lasting effect,” he says, adding that the weapon’s development gathered momentum after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
Indeed, the 1 mm radio wave penetrates the top 1/64th of an inch of skin and just down to the nerve endings. When hit, the target moves away from the beam and the sensation ceases. Each blast is four seconds and in testing with 600 volunteers and 10,000 exposures, the Air Force claims there is only one tenth of a 1 percent chance of minor injury such as a blister or rash.
Fifteen years in development, the device comes at a time when the military is serving in a multitude of non-traditional roles such as peace-keeping and humanitarian missions.
“We have instances where helicopters had a hard time landing to deliver foodstuffs. Hunger is a pretty motivating factor and if I was senior member of my tribe or clan and I’ve watched my family die from hunger, I’ll do what it takes to get those foodstuffs. How do you non-lethally get them to stand in an orderly fashion so the food can be delivered safely and proportionally and protect those who aren’t in a rush? If you can target individuals to stay back, leave the area or form and orderly line, it only takes a couple of individuals to be targeted and it says there’s something going on here,” says Col. Hymes.
At the heart of the transmitter is a water-cooled gyrotron developed by CPI Inc. based in Palo Alto, CA. The gyrotron creates the radio frequency beam. The aiming device is comprised of “relatively simple” optics, which look down the center of beam.
In addition to the Humvee-mounted unit, the Air Force has also built one containerized version, which is armored and enclosed to survive rugged environments. Each system costs about $10 million, says Hymes. Raytheon is the systems integrator.
The testing of the ADS itself has been proven and now focuses on how it can be maintained and operated in challenging environments such as Iraq’s dust and heat.