On Sept. 22, 2004, Thomas J. Fagan, an employee at Raytheon, was granted an FCC license for a radiofrequency technology “breakthrough creating unprecedented, stand off, non-lethal capabilities at ranges beyond effective small arms range.” (view description submitted to the FCC; view application to the FCC) According to the the FCC comments, the license was specifically to demonstrate the technology to “law enforcement, military and security organizations.”
According to the description by the U.S. Air Force:
ADS projects a focused, speed-of-light milli-meter-wave energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation on an adversary’s skin and cause that individual to be repelled without injury. The picture on the right depicts the prototype currently in development. ADS will enable U.S. forces to stop, deter and turn back an advancing adversary without applying lethal force. This capability is expected to save countless lives by providing a means to stop individuals without causing injury, before a deadly confrontation develops.
In a 2002 article by the Christian Science Monitor on nonlethal weapons, Brad Knickerbocker demonstrates the similarities between the development of these weapons and domestic crowd-control weaponry, as well as implications for insurgencies in Iraq:
Weapons designed to be less than lethal have been around for years: rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas. Mostly, they've been used by police forces rather than the military.
But especially since the end of the cold war, when US military forces found themselves spending much time trying to keep the peace in dangerous places like Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti, nonlethal weapons have made more sense for them as well.
Foreseen on the immediate horizon are what defense experts call “Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain” (MOUT) — violent street fighting, in plain language. Retired Gen. Charles Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps, calls this “the three-block war.”
“In one moment in time, our service members will be feeding and clothing displaced refugees — providing humanitarian assistance,” he says. “In the next moment, they will be holding two warring tribes apart — conducting peacekeeping operations. Finally, they will be fighting a highly lethal mid-intensity battle. All within three city blocks.”
According to the Air Force, which devoted “a large portion of the investment, about $9 million ... to characterizing the effects of this technology on the human body” by testing the beams on humans and animals, the technology has a “low probability” of serious injuries such as thermal eye injury or cancer. The Wikipedia article on ADS quotes the military as saying the project “is absolutely not designed or intended or built” for torture.
Though “treaty compliance” is still under review, the USAF will be introducing the technology to the military shortly.
Under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, the Air Force Research Laboratory will produce a Humvee-mounted prototype and provide it to operational forces from all the services in late 2004. The services will first develop concepts for employing the system and then evaluate its utility in representative military environments and scenarios. Depending on the results of this evaluation, which is projected to be completed at the end of 2005, a decision will be made to produce and operationally deploy the system. Since this is the first time this leading edge technology will be evaluated for military utility, it is possible that some of the services will find they need considerably different system configurations of the ADS which would be tailored for specific missions and operating environments, such as on-board a ship or on an aircraft. Planning for an airborne system prototype has already begun under a separate effort.