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Millimeter-Wave Weapon Certified For Use In Iraq 806

jdray writes "Wired has a story on the certification of the Active Denial System for use in Iraq. The ADS is a millimeter-wave weapon that uses a reportedly non-lethal energy beam to inflict short-term pain on its targets, encouraging them to leave an area. Experimenters call this the 'Goodbye effect.' I can see using this in a wartime situation, but how long before we see these things mounted to the top of S.W.A.T. vans for domestic crowd control? And, is that a bad idea?" From the article: The ADS shoots a beam of millimeters waves, which are longer in wavelength than x-rays but shorter than microwaves — 94 GHz (= 3 mm wavelength) compared to 2.45 GHz (= 12 cm wavelength) in a standard microwave oven... while subjects may feel like they have sustained serious burns, the documents claim effects are not long-lasting. At most, 'some volunteers who tolerate the heat may experience prolonged redness or even small blisters'... There has been no independent checking of the military's claims." Wired use Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain documents on the military's testing program.
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Millimeter-Wave Weapon Certified For Use In Iraq

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  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:58PM (#17116490)
    Probably has effects like other microwaves. The military found out long ago that exposure to microwaves increases the incidence of cataracts. That's why there are rather low exposure limits-- a few milliwatts per cm^2.
  • Might be non-lethal (Score:4, Informative)

    by cptgrudge ( 177113 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (egdurgtpc)> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:59PM (#17116500) Journal

    But by the article's admission, we don't know the long lasting effects yet. The burning rays are supposed to be absorbed by the top layer of your skin. But what happens if there's nerve damage that becomes apparent in ten years? Or an increased risk of skin cancer later on in life?

    Unless it is absolutely necessary, we probably shouldn't use this weapon yet. The US has the unenviable distinction of being the only country to use large-scale nuclear weapons in war, and that event and it's reasons are debated and discussed to no end. I wouldn't want another weapon used that, although smaller scale, still ends up killing people decades later because they are put at an increased risk for other factors. Especially if the "intent" is non-lethal. But if we can be almost certain that it's truly non-lethal with no long lasting effects, this would be a good tool to use, for both military and riot police.

  • Re:Safety concerns (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:01PM (#17116534)
    Absolutely NO amount of radiation is completely safe. I'm wondering if this will be a new disaster like the use of radioactive munitions by NATO in former Yugoslavia...

    I'm not saying I like the idea of this thing, I don't, but you're confusing nuclear radiation with mm wave RF. Light is radition, too.

  • by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:04PM (#17116586) Journal
    From the article:
    "In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds."

    Then later:
    "Effective range is at least 500 meters,"

    Do you know anyone that can run half a kilometre in 5 seconds?

    "The [AC-130] typically engage targets at a range of two miles or more, which implies an ADS far more powerful than System 1 has been developed."

    Light of god ftw..

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:08PM (#17116690)
    Why couldn't they just say "EHF" if they needed to specify the frequency area where 94 GHz resides.

    Radar guys use the term millimeter-wave, so I guess it means that radar guys developed it, not communications engineers.

  • Re:Suit up guys! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:23PM (#17117000)
    Joking aside, how easy would it be to make protective armor against this kind of attack? You can buy rolls of steel or aluminum window screening at any hardware store for under $50.

    The intended purpose of this device is for crowd control. The implication of people using "armor" would be that the "mob" is actually somewhat organized. You wouldn't be wearing the armor unless you anticipated being in a place where the millimeter-wave weapon would be used. You wouldn't anticipate being in such a situation unless you were planning to cause a disruption or asked to join in one.

    Wearing armor would also imply that the crowd is likely to atack. Try to picture someone putting on armor so they could quietly sit and protest. These are people who'd at least be throwing rocks.

    My guess is that if armor is possible and is used, that the army would put down the millimeter gun and pick back up the machine gun. You couldn't get away with firing an automatic weapon into the crowd during a riot in L.A., but something tells me it wouldn't be a problem in Iraq. Unless you haven't noticed, it's not exactly like we're going out of our way to detail the number of Iraqis killed by Americans in the news. We would probably never even notice. For this reason alone, I hope the energy weapon works as advertised.

  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:26PM (#17117074)

    The summary said this was between microwaves and x-rays. Both of which have been considered cancer concerns. Of course, visible light, approximately between 350 and 700 nm is also in that range. Much of the cancer worry has to do with intensity and duration of exposure. Higher frequency light only reduces the amount needed to cause problems. I would think that if exposure to this weapon caused blisters and pain, the beam would have to be fairly intense.

    First off, x-rays aren't a cancer *concern*, they are absolutely known to cause cancer. So there's that. However, for sub-visible wavelengths, the case for cancer is a bit weak. Cancer is caused when DNA molecular bonds are broken. This happens when the molecule absorbs a photon which excites a bonded electron temporarily, long enough for it to change the chemistry of the molecule. One problem with the cancer theory - this process requires visible-uv light at a minimum, and the process depends solely on the frequency of the light, not the intensity. Microwaves won't do the trick, nor will radio waves.

    For microwaves or radio waves to cause cancer, they'd have to result in some pretty serious localized heating to your tissue, probably for a rather extended time period, and even then it's rather doubtful since you'd probably simply die first from being cooked.

  • Tooth Fairy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:49PM (#17117528)
    Yeah, and they (Wired) didn't make them available to the public, as some decent news sources do. Would have been nice if they made them available in their article - because "everyman" trying to obtain gov. docs via the sunshine laws is like pulling teeth. I've done it.

    Here is a companion article from Wired with some of the documents: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,72236-0.htm l?tw=rss.index [wired.com]

  • Still a deterrent (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@xoxy. n e t> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @03:50PM (#17117548) Homepage Journal
    Joking aside, how easy would it be to make protective armor against this kind of attack? You can buy rolls of steel or aluminum window screening at any hardware store for under $50.

    Causing them to fall back to "Plan B," also known as rubber bullets (or real ones). I'm not sure that's an improvement.

    Plus, at least if I was going to deploy this, I'd probably use a mix of denial devices; tear gas, smoke, ultrasonics, psychological deterrents (recordings of people screaming, etc.), and the giant Radarange. If one particular method doesn't make you want to leave, chances are one of the other ones will.

    It just adds to the would-be rioter's load of stuff they have to bring. Gas mask, earplugs, roll of window screen, padded suit (don't want to get trampled by the less prepared)...joining a mob and burning stuff just becomes less fun-sounding in a hurry, when you have to go home and get your "riot kit" first.
  • Re:Suit up guys! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @04:19PM (#17118106)
    I thought my reference to domestic protests was made clear by the context. I did mean American domestic protests.

    And I'm not saying people everywhere wouldn't use coutermeasures. All I'm saying is that they're not likely to use them if going about their daily buiness and the riot police know it. If they do wear the countermeasures, then other types of weapons will probably be be used and those other weapons are very likely to be deadly. Although wearing armor may seem like a good idea, if it "forces" your adversarry to use a bigger gun, it's not neccessarily to your advantage.

  • Re:Ohforfucksake (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @04:33PM (#17118388) Homepage
    Do you have any idea what goes on when a prisoner is tortured for information? This weapon system is the Disney-ified G-rated version of even the mildest "information extraction" techniques, divided by a thousand.

    Actually I do, and I think you are wrong (especially if I take your "even the mildest" phrase as anything but gross exaggeration for effect). This basically creates the sensation of being burned alive, and burning is one of the most horrible pains one can experience. The physical effect is of a mild burn, but the sensation is of being severely burned. Nobody tested was able to withstand more than 5 seconds of the beam, and these were military tests so your average wimp probably wasn't invited. If 5 seconds is too excruciating for anyone to bear, then what does 30 seconds or a minute feel like?

    I'll agree with you on the rape thing... Though it might make more sense to ask the question again after a minute of being under this device's effect.

  • by uberjoe ( 726765 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:32PM (#17119566)
    I think you are talking about a Tasp. [wikipedia.org]
  • by phossie ( 118421 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @06:35PM (#17120722)

    If you're sane, I'd argue that we're in a frightening environment no matter your place on the multidimensional political spectrum.

    I am a fiscal conservative, an environmental conservative (I often think, "that word, it does not mean what you think it means"), and a civil liberties freak. I label myself as a leftist because I believe the first two points of my platform can be accomplished through enlightened application of the third.

    But part of the problem is that the political spectrum in the US is distorted almost beyond belief. We can't even talk rationally about our positions without explaining them in detail, because political campaigning has so skewed the meaning of most of our vocabulary. When I say "conservative," I mean something quite close to the accepted dictionary definition of many years. I don't mean that I support the status quo or the prevailing religious viewpoint. But if all I said was that I am conservative, you might think I'm a warmonger and your mistake would be understandable.

    We are dealing with a terrible dearth of honesty and clarity in public discourse.

  • MOD PARENT DOWN! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Virak ( 897071 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @08:22PM (#17122138) Homepage
    Yes, no lasting effects unless you count the cataracts and blindness in people who accidently stare too long straight at the antenna, trying to figure out what is causing the pain and when it will stop, while it cooks sensitive eye tissues.
    From the article:
    Eye damage is identified as the biggest concern, but the military claims this has been thoroughly studied. Lab testing found subjects reflexively blink or turn away within a quarter of a second of exposure, long before the sensitive cornea can be damaged. Tests on monkeys showed that corneal damage heals within 24 hours, the reports claim.

    Or used on crowds with pregnant women, and tiny children who don't know what is going on. (Of course, in Cheney's view, ethics and minorities, no great loss.)
    Do you know why pain exists? It's so you have some motivation to move away from the source of said pain. When something is causing you extreme pain, you are going to move until it stops, not sit around until it causes you serious harm. (This applies to the above too.)

    Additionally, to quote the article:
    Documents acquired for Wired News using the Freedom of Information Act claim that most of the radiation (83 percent) is instantly absorbed by the top layer of the skin, heating it rapidly.
    It's unlikely it'd even penetrate far enough to be any more of a worry to pregnant women than to anyone else.

    Or when the field intensity ends up with strong lobes they never planned on, because of metal in the urban environment accidently causing concentration.
    Yes, I'm sure that they, with their 10 years and $40 million, never thought of that; it's remarkable that you, with a few minutes, $0, and no experience whatsoever with the weapon, could so easily spot such a flaw.
  • by Democritus the Minor ( 762206 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:15AM (#17125508)

    The metal paint - eh - that'll heat up too - remember the photoelectric effect, as per Einstein.
    Wrong. The photoelectric effect [wikipedia.org] is the phenomenon where light shining on certain metals cause a release of electrons. The energy from the photons is converted to escape and kinetic energies of the electrons. Besides, millimeter waves are not sufficiently energetic to cause electron release.

interlard - vt., to intersperse; diversify -- Webster's New World Dictionary Of The American Language