Active Denial Technology: Directed Energy Weapons

The Active Denial System, a nonlethal energy weapon system developed by Raytheon, will be turned over to the U.S. military next month. The vehicle-mounted system disables enemy soldiers or crowds with a painful beam of electromagnetic energy that inflicts a disabling, burning pain over the body by triggering heat receptors in the skin.

(From Raytheon Beam Controls Mobs)

Wade Smith, deputy director of this program for Raytheon, has voluntarily felt the beam during testing. "This is an effect that literally gets under your skin," said Smith, "I can assure you, once you come in contact with the beam, you will be inclined to stop whatever you are doing."

Active Denial Technology uses a transmitter to send a tight beam of 95-Ghz millimeter waves; the energy reaches the subject and penetrates less than 1/64th of an inch into the skin. A two-second burst can heat the skin to a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The sensation is like that experienced when touching an ordinary light bulb; the flesh does not burn, however, because of the low levels of energy used. Exposure of at least 250 seconds would be required before burns would result.

The concept of energy weapons is found throughout the earliest science fiction; consider the heat ray of H.G. Wells 1898 novel War of the Worlds. In more modern works, the idea of non-lethal weapons has gained ground; for example, see the chunker from William Gibson's 1993 novel Virutal Light.

Find more information at Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS) and Active Denial System (ADS) at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

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