Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sheriff comes to town

In May we posted about the Pentagon's new class of "non-lethal" weapons, among which was the Active Denial System, a 95 gigahertz microwave beam meant to cause intolerable pain in less than five seconds. It is meant to "break up a crowd" of rioters.

Yes, I'd say such a weapon would do that. And probably more. Reuters (via MSNBC and quoting New Scientist magazine) reports that in tests against faux rioters at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, subjects were first warned to remove contact lenses and glasses and metal objects like coins or buttons to prevent "local hots spots":
“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?”
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.
The Sheriff is said to have a range of 550 yards (five and a half football fields) and has so far cost US taxpayers 51 million dollars, shoveled into the hungry maw of the sweethearts at Raytheon Corporation, makers of the Patriot Missile (the one that doesn't work).

It sounds to me like this is a weapon both likely to kill people and to cause intolerable pain first. Proud to be an American?