San Diego Union Tribune

Military trying out crowd-control device


September 15, 2006

WASHINGTON – In an effort to give U.S. troops a choice between “shouting and shooting” in confronting hostile crowds, the military is testing a device that gives advancing adversaries the feeling of being on fire without doing any physical harm.

“It will definitely get your attention,” said Michael Booen, vice president of directed energy and missile defense programs at Raytheon, which has developed the system using heat-inducing technology.

Mission Federal Credit Union

The system uses a focused beam of electronic energy that creates an intolerable burning sensation. Extensive testing and independent medical and scientific reviews have shown that it causes no lasting physical harm.

The system uses millimeter wave energy, which penetrates the skin to 1/64th of an inch – about the thickness of three sheets of paper – where the nerve endings lie, Booen said. It is not microwave, which can roast meat, he quickly added.

Nonetheless, the weapon has met resistance from watchdog groups concerned that such electronic devices could be used in coercive interrogations of detainees.

The technology was developed to stop crowds or individuals from a range of 300 yards, and is more discriminate in whom it affects than current riot-control tools such as tear gas.

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