[NetBehaviour] "What I'm looking for is a way to shoot everybody..."

ryan griffis grifray at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 11 20:38:18 CEST 2005


Begin forwarded message:

> http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-07-09-army-weapons_x.htm
>
> Military's energy-beam weapons delayed
>
> By Brian Bergstein, Associated Press Technology Writer
>
> ARLINGTON, Va. - For years, the U.S. military has explored a new kind
> of firepower that is instantaneous, precise and virtually
> inexhaustible: beams of electromagnetic energy. "Directed-energy"
> pulses can be throttled up or down depending on the situation, much
> like the phasers on "Star Trek" could be set to kill or merely stun.
> Such weapons are now nearing fruition. But logistical issues have
> delayed their battlefield debut - even as soldiers in Iraq encounter
> tense urban situations in which the nonlethal capabilities of
> directed energy could be put to the test.
> "It's a great technology with enormous potential, but I think the
> environment's not strong for it," said James Jay Carafano, a senior
> fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who blames the
> military and Congress for not spending enough on getting directed
> energy to the front. "The tragedy is that I think it's exactly the
> right time for this."
> The hallmark of all directed-energy weapons is that the target -
> whether a human or a mechanical object - has no chance to avoid the
> shot because it moves at the speed of light. At some frequencies, it
> can penetrate walls.
> Since the ammunition is merely light or radio waves, directed-energy
> weapons are limited only by the supply of electricity. And they don't
> involve chemicals or projectiles that can be inaccurate, accidentally
> cause injury or violate international treaties.
> "When you're dealing with people whose full intent is to die, you
> can't give people a choice of whether to comply," said George Gibbs,
> a systems engineer for the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Program
> who oversees directed-energy projects. "What I'm looking for is a way
> to shoot everybody, and they're all OK."
> Almost as diverse as the electromagnetic spectrum itself,
> directed-energy weapons span a wide range of incarnations.
> Among the simplest forms are inexpensive, handheld lasers that fill
> people's field of vision, inducing a temporary blindness to ensure
> they stop at a checkpoint, for example. Some of these already are
> used in Iraq.
> Other radio-frequency weapons in development can sabotage the
> electronics of land mines, shoulder-fired missiles or automobiles - a
> prospect that interests police departments in addition to the
> military.
> A separate branch of directed-energy research involves bigger, badder
> beams: lasers that could obliterate targets tens of miles away from
> ships or planes. Such a strike would be so surgical that, as some
> designers put it at a recent conference here, the military could
> plausibly deny responsibility.
> The flexibility of directed-energy weapons could be vital as
> wide-scale, force-on-force conflict becomes increasingly rare, many
> experts say. But the technology has been slowed by such practical
> concerns as how to shrink beam-firing antennas and power supplies.
> Military officials also say more needs to be done to assure the
> international community that directed-energy weapons set to stun
> rather than kill will not harm noncombatants.
> Such issues recently led the Pentagon to delay its Project Sheriff, a
> plan to outfit vehicles in Iraq with a combination of lethal and
> nonlethal weaponry - including a highly touted microwave-energy
> blaster that makes targets feel as if their skin is on fire. Sheriff
> has been pushed at least to 2006.
> "It was best to step back and make sure we understand where we can go
> with it," said David Law, science and technology chief for the Joint
> Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.
> The directed-energy component in the project is the Active Denial
> System, developed by Air Force researchers and built by Raytheon Co.
> It produces a millimeter-wavelength burst of energy that penetrates
> 1/64 of an inch into a person's skin, agitating water molecules to
> produce heat. The sensation is certain to get people to halt whatever
> they are doing.
> Military investigators say decades of research have shown that the
> effect ends the moment a person is out of the beam, and no lasting
> damage is done as long as the stream does not exceed a certain
> duration. How long? That answer is classified, but it apparently is
> in the realm of seconds, not minutes. The range of the beam also is
> secret, though it is said to be further than small arms fire, so an
> attacker could be repelled before he could pull a trigger.
> Although Active Denial works - after a $51 million, 11-year
> investment - it has proven to be a "model for how hard it is to field
> a directed-energy nonlethal weapon," Law said.
> For example, the prototype system can be mounted on a Humvee but the
> vehicle has to stop in order to fire the beam. Using the vehicle's
> electrical power "is pushing its limits," he added.
> Still, Raytheon is pressing ahead with smaller, portable,
> shorter-range spinoffs of Active Denial for embassies, ships or other
> sensitive spots.
> One potential customer is the Department of Energy. Researchers at
> its Sandia National Laboratories are testing Active Denial as a way
> to repel intruders from nuclear facilities. But Sandia researchers
> say the beams won't be in place until 2008 at the earliest because so
> much testing remains.
> In the meantime, Raytheon is trying to drum up business for an
> automated airport-defense project known as Vigilant Eagle that
> detects shoulder-fired missiles and fries their electronics with an
> electromagnetic wave. The system, which would cost $25 million per
> airport, has proven effective against a "real threat," said Michael
> Booen, a former Air Force colonel who heads Raytheon's
> directed-energy work. He refused to elaborate.
> For Peter Bitar, the future of directed energy boils down to money.
> Bitar heads Indiana-based Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems Ltd.,
> which makes small blinding lasers used in Iraq. But his real project
> is a nonlethal energy device called the StunStrike.
> Basically, it fires a bolt of lightning. It can be tuned to blow up
> explosives, possibly to stop vehicles and certainly to buzz people.
> The strike can be made to feel as gentle as "broom bristles" or
> cranked up to deliver a paralyzing jolt that "takes a few minutes to
> wear off."
> Bitar, who is of Arab descent, believes StunStrike would be
> particularly intimidating in the Middle East because, he contends,
> people there are especially afraid of lightning.
> At present, StunStrike is a 20-foot tower that can zap things up to
> 28 feet away. The next step is to shrink it so it could be wielded by
> troops and used in civilian locales like airplane cabins or building
> entrances.
> Xtreme ADS also needs more tests to establish that StunStrike is safe
> to use on people.
> But all that takes money - more than the $700,000 Bitar got from the
> Pentagon from 2003 until the contract recently ended.
> Bitar is optimistic StunStrike will be perfected, either with revenue
> from the laser pointers or a partnership with a bigger defense
> contractor. In the meantime, though, he wishes soldiers in Iraq
> already had his lightning device on difficult missions like
> door-to-door searches.
> "It's very frustrating when you know you've got a solution that's
> being ignored," he said. "The technology is the easy part."




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