Imagine a scene where the Yankees win the World Series and the people in the Bronx start to riot. Out rolls the National Guard Humvee with a strange contraption on the top. All of a sudden you feel an intense burning heat that makes you just run. within minutes the crowd is dispersed and order is restored without a single shot fired or rioter beat.This is now reality now that the United States military has rolled out the “Active Denial System” non-lethal heat ray.
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 Colonel Tracy Taffola, director the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Corps Base Quantico. Taffola is quick also to point out the “Active Denial System” beam, while powerful and long-range, some 1000 meters (0.6 miles), is the military’s “safest non-lethal capability” that has been developed over 15 years but never used in the field. It was deployed briefly in Afghanistan in 2010, but never employed in an operation.
“There are a lot of misperceptions out there,” lamented Taffola, saying the Pentagon was keen to make clear what the weapon is, and what it is not. The frequency of the blast makes all the difference for actual injury as opposed to extreme discomfort, stressed Stephanie Miller, who measured the system’s radio frequency bioeffects at the Air Force Research Laboratory. The heat ray is 95 gigahertz, a frequency “absorbed very superficially,” said Miller. The beam only penetrates the person 1/64th of an inch (0.4 millimeter), which “gives a lot more safety.” “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 said. “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.”
Taffola said the operator’s trigger, in a truck far from the action, has an automatic shut-off after 3 seconds for safety. “This provides the safest means and also provides the greatest range,” he said.