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.
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.