Active denial system

Active denial system DEFAULT

Active Denial System: a terahertz based military deterrent for safe crowd control

Terahertz waves are invisible and just as other electromagnetic radiation types can be pointed to a distant target by means of special antennas and amplifiers. Less than a decade  ago a group of scientists headed by Raytheon designed a mighty deterrent system for crowd dispersal that employed  unique features of THz waves multiplying their generally 'soft touch'  with a extremely powerful generators  (gyrotrons) to achieve the desired effect. Officially, it was given the name of  Active Denial System (ADS) and it basically represents  a directed-energy tool for crowd control,  area denial, perimeter security ad similar security -related purposes. Informally, the weapon is also called the heat ray' and it's not without reason.

This technology is based on  non-lethal impact on human skin, which in other words does not kill, but scare off people from locations where their presence is unwanted. The technique employs millimeter waves at the frequency of 95 GHz that considerably heat up the very thin top layer of human skin (only down to 0.4mm deep) up to a temperature of approximately  53-54 °C. Such heat ray impact generated by this stand-off deterrent system  lasts only for a couple of seconds (or use series of burst 2-sec long), but it's more than enough to achieve the sought result - disperse the crowd. A targeted persons cannot tolerate such effect even for a few seconds, which in its turn  forces them to seek escape from its influence  and move away.

The U.S. Marines and Air Force and other special forces are said to use this conceptually new deterrent technology designed to incapacitate enemy combatants with an unnerving non-lethal sensation of intense heat. If installed on a vehicle it can be quickly transported to scatter the crowd in a certain location.

Col. Kirk Hymes, Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Director, emphasized  three great characteristics of ADS. First of all its safe. Second, it's effective, and third, it has tremendous range compared to the other non-lethal warfare. The electromagnetic waves released by ADS collects the impressive energy which is sent to the target at the speed of light. Gyrotron, the heart of the machine,  is capable of generating a radio frequency with an output power of 100KW to keep the troublemakers away. ADS is similar to a microwave radiation  known to cause the water molecules in the matter  to become excited and heat up. However, as opposed to microwave oven,  ADS is intrinsically safe and non-detrimental for human health as it is designed to heat up only the very surface of the skin thanks to outputting only the carefully chosen frequency of 95 GHz with a known effect. Even though it can easily penetrate clothing the ADS generates a much shorter and safer wavelengths of radio waves than those used in a microwave ovens.

Our customers and web-site visitors often ask us if THz radiation of our spectral range 50-700GHz is safe. Well, if sophisticated terahertz-based systems with such mighty output power are considered by experts to be safe,  THz sources  (IMPATT diodes) with max output power of 0.5W and Terahertz imaging systems on their basis produced  by Terasense are absolutely innocent and are double-safe beyond any reasonable doubt.


QUANTICO, Virginia – One moment it's a chilly afternoon. But as I learned, in the very next moment, and without warning, your chest and neck feel like they've gotten a blast of unbearable steam heat.

That's because of an imposing device the U.S. military calls the Active Denial System. It's an energy weapon, commonly known as the "Pain Ray," that turns electricity into millimeter wave radio frequency. And heat. Lots of heat.

The military wants it to zap suspicious people who might pose a threat to a base. Yet the Active Denial System has never fired a millimeter wave in anger, despite 15 years in development. On a crisp Friday afternoon, however, the military wants the Active Denial System to burn a different target. Me.

A field-grade officer on a grassy, calm field on the Marine base here beckons me to stand between four cones, on a spray-painted orange X. I am advised to jump sideways when the heat becomes unbearable. Whatever, I think, this isn't really going to burn me.

Especially because I can't see the Pain Ray, even though it's mounted on two big, goofy-looking trucks. One model is a tricked-out green Humvee topped with a huge, flat backboard and a gun barrel; the other is much bigger, mounted on an eight-wheeled flatbed truck. Their handlers call the smaller one Ralph and the bigger one Pete. But since Ralph and Pete are seven football fields away – far beyond the reach of every other non-lethal weapon – they don't seem threatening.

This turns out to be pure journalistic arrogance.

When the signal goes out over radio to shoot me, there's no warning – no flash, no smell, no sound, no round. Suddenly my chest and neck feel like they've been exposed to a blast furnace, with a sting thrown in for good measure. I'm getting blasted with 12 joules of energy per square centimeter, in a fairly concentrated blast diameter. I last maybe two seconds of curiosity before my body takes the controls and yanks me out of the way of the beam.

I'm feeling the heat for a good 10 seconds afterward. Then, like a genius, I go back for seconds. (Some friends from al-Jazeera wanted to film me – or so they said.) If I was, say, an Afghan at the gates of a Forward Operating Base who seemed indifferent to a flash-grilling, the guards would probably have used their regular and very lethal carbines to light me up. Instead, I decide that I don't really want thirds.

That reaction is among the reasons why the technicians at the Pentagon's Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate consider the Active Denial System one of their most impressive weapons. But it's a troubled system. Some of the Pain Ray's woes are technical. Others are more fundamental.

Usually the Active Denial System is described as a "microwave" weapon. That's not really correct. True, Pete and Ralph's guts contain a gyrotron, the older brother of your microwave's magnetron, through which energy passes through a magnetic field to become heat. But millimeter waves don't penetrate nearly as deeply as microwaves – only 1/64th of an inch. Even though the weapon uses much, much more energy than a microwave, the Directorate has tried and failed to use it to cook a turkey.

That's not all the Active Denial System has failed at.

The system's gone through battery after battery of tests, including one that put an airman in the hospital. (The Directorate's rejoinder: it's tested the Pain Ray 11,000 times and only two people, including that airman, got hurt.) But its "attenuation" – that is, its potency – goes down when it's raining, snowing or dusty, concedes one of its chief scientists, Diana Loree of the Air Force Research Laboratory, without specifying the degree of reduction. And that's not its biggest design flaw.

Loree says the boot-up time on the Pain Ray is "sixteen hours." So if the system is at a dead stop on a base and, say, the locals protest the burning of a Koran, guards at the entry points won't be burning anyone. The Directorate says that in a realistic deployment, the Active Denial System will be kept in ready mode – that is, loudly humming as its fuel tanks power it, or hooked up to a base's generator. But that makes it a gas guzzler, at a time when the military's trying to reduce its expensive fuel costs.

"That's something we've really got to look hard at, how do we make the system as efficient as possible," says Marine Col. Tracy Tafolla, the head of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, "to make sure that we're not running a lot of fuel."

Another problem is less technological and more fundamental. In 2010, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, sent the Pain Ray back to the States after a deployment of mere weeks. His reasoning: it was too great a propaganda boon to the Taliban, who'd say the U.S. was microwaving Afghans, giving them cancer, making them sterile, and so forth.

The Directorate is quick to say it's done extensive "bio-effects" testing, and the system can't do any of that – so, surprise, Taliban propaganda is bogus. But commanders in Afghanistan may not be so quick to embrace the Pain Ray while Afghan tempers stay inflamed. The system is effectively in limbo, as none of the services want to purchase it – and it hasn't even been upgraded since 2010. It's fundamentally the same Pain Ray that McChrystal returned to sender.

That's actually why I've been burned. The military's interest in bringing the press out to Quantico was basically to generate a rare round of good-news stories for the system. That stings worse than my shoulder.

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Active Denial System

Non-lethal, directed-energy weapon (2002-current)

The Active Denial System (ADS), is a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon developed by the U.S. military,[2] designed for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control.[3] Informally, the weapon is also called the heat ray[4] since it works by heating the surface of targets, such as the skin of targeted human beings. Raytheon had marketed a reduced-range version of this technology.[5] The ADS was deployed in 2010 with the United States military in the Afghanistan War, but was withdrawn without seeing combat.[6] On August 20, 2010, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department announced its intent to use this technology to control incarcerated people in the Pitchess Detention Center in Los Angeles, stating its intent to use it in "operational evaluation" in situations such as breaking up prisoner fights.[7] As of 2014, the ADS was only a vehicle-mounted weapon, though U.S. Marines and police were both working on portable versions.[8] ADS was developed under the sponsorship of the Department of Defense Non-Lethal Weapons Program with the Air Force Research Laboratory as the lead agency.[9][10] There are reports that Russia[11] and China are developing their own versions of the Active Denial System.[12]

Mechanism and effects[edit]

The ADS works by firing a high-powered (100 kW output power)[13] beam of 95 GHz waves at a target, which corresponds to a wavelength of 3.2 mm.[14] The ADS millimeter wave energy works on a principle similar to a microwave oven, exciting the water and fat molecules in the skin, and instantly heating them via dielectric heating. One significant difference is that a microwave oven uses the much lower frequency (and longer wavelength) of 2.45 GHz. The short millimeter waves used in ADS only penetrate the top layers of skin, with most of the energy being absorbed within 0.4 mm (1⁄64 inch),[15] whereas microwaves will penetrate into human tissue about 17 mm (0.67 inch).[16]

The ADS's effect of repelling humans occurs at slightly higher than 44 °C (111 °F), though first-degree burns occur at about 51 °C (124 °F), and second-degree burns occur at about 58 °C (136 °F).[17] In testing, pea-sized blisters have been observed in less than 0.1% of ADS exposures, indicating that second degree surface burns have been caused by the device.[17] The radiation burns caused are similar to microwave burns, but only on the skin surface due to the decreased penetration of shorter millimeter waves. The surface temperature of a target will continue to rise so long as the beam is applied, at a rate dictated by the target's material and distance from the transmitter, along with the beam's frequency and power level set by the operator. Most human test subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none could endure more than 5 seconds.[18]

A spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory described his experience as a test subject for the system:

For the first millisecond, it just felt like the skin was warming up. Then it got warmer and warmer and you felt like it was on fire. ... As soon as you're away from that beam your skin returns to normal and there is no pain.

Like all focused energy, the beam will irradiate all matter in the targeted area, including everything beyond/behind it that is not shielded, with no possible discrimination between individuals, objects or materials. Anyone incapable of leaving the target area (e.g., physically handicapped, infants, incapacitated, trapped, etc.) would continue to receive radiation until the operator turned off the beam. Reflective materials such as aluminum cooking foil should reflect this radiation and could be used to make clothing that would be protective against this radiation.[19]

Following approximately ten thousand test exposures of volunteers to ADS beams,[18] a Penn State Human Effects Advisory Panel (HEAP) concluded that ADS is a non-lethal weapon that has a high probability of effectiveness with a low probability of injury:[17]

  • no significant effects for wearers of contact lenses or other eyewear (including night vision goggles)
  • normal skin applications, such as cosmetics, have little effect on ADSʼs interaction with skin
  • no age-related differences in response to ADS exposures
  • no effect on the male reproduction system
  • damage was the occurrence of pea-sized blisters in less than 0.1% of the exposures (6 of 10,000 exposures).[18]

In April 2007, one airman in an ADS test was overdosed and received second-degree burns on both legs, and was treated in a hospital for two days.[19][20] There was also one laboratory accident in 1999 that resulted in a small second-degree burn.[18]

Safety Studies[edit]

Many possible long-term effects have been studied, with the conclusion that no long-term effects are likely at the exposure levels studied.[15] However, overexposures of either operators or targets may cause thermal injury. According to an official military assessment, "In the event of an overexposure to a power density sufficient to produce thermal injury, there is an extremely low probability that scars derived from such injury might later become cancerous. Proper wound management further decreases this probability, as well as the probability of hypertrophic scarring or keloid formation."[21]

  • Cancer: A mouse cancer study was performed at two energy levels and exposures with a 94 GHz transmitter: a single 10 second, 1 W/cm2 exposure; and repeated 10 second exposures over 2 week period at 333 mW/cm2. At both energy levels, no increase in skin cancers were observed.[22] No studies of higher energy levels, or longer exposure times have been performed on millimeter-wave systems.
  • Cornea damage: Tests on non-human primate eyes have observed no short-term or long-term damage as the blink reflex protects the eye from damage within 0.25 seconds.[23]
  • Birth defects: Millimeter waves only penetrate 0.4 mm (1⁄64 inch) into the skin, making direct damage to the testes or ovaries impossible.
  • Blisters and scarring: Pea-sized blistering due to second degree burns occurred in a very small minority (less than 0.1%) of tested exposures, which have a remote potential for scarring.

ADS operators would be exposed to more than the standard maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limits for RF energy, and military use requires an exception to these exposure limits.[24]

ADS Safety Studies have been independently reviewed by a non-government human effect advisory panel.[25]



Two Active Denial Systems were developed under a Defense Department "Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration" Program (now known as Joint Concept Technology Demonstration Program) from 2002 to 2007. Unlike typical weapons development programs in the Defense Department, ACTDs/JCTDs are not focused on optimizing the technology; rather they are focused on rapidly assembling the technology in a configuration suitable for user evaluation.[26]


On September 22, 2004, Raytheon was granted an FCC license to demonstrate the technology to "law enforcement, military and security organizations."[27]

On October 4, 2004, the United States Department of Defense published the following contract information:

Communications and Power Industries (CPI), Palto Alto [sic], Calif., is being awarded a $6,377,762 costs-reimbursement, cost-plus fixed-price contract. The contractor shall design, build, test, and deliver a two to 2.5 megawatt, high efficiency, continuous wave (CW) 95 gigahertz millimeter wave source system. The contractor shall perform extensive modeling, simulation, experiments, and testing to the maximum capabilities of their facilities (which shall no less than one megawatt peak RF output) that will ascertain the final CW capabilities of the source. The contractor also shall provide input for the requirements for the government's test stand, which will serve as a full power facility in the future. At this time, $900,000 of the funds has been obliged. This work will be complete by January 2009. Negotiations were completed September 2004. The Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is the contracting activity (FA9451-04-C-0298).[28]


The military has made the ADS available to the media for demonstrations on a number of occasions. A fully operational and mounted version of the system was demonstrated on January 24, 2007, at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. A Reuters correspondent who volunteered to be shot with the beam during the demonstration described it as "similar to a blast from a very hot oven – too painful to bear without diving for cover."[29] An Associated Press reporter who volunteered to be engaged stated "They certainly convinced me that the system could help save the lives of innocent civilians and our young service members"[30] CBS News correspondent did an in-depth story on ADS in March 2008.[31] A demonstration was conducted for the media on March 9, 2012, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.[32]

Afghanistan deployment[edit]

An operational version of the Active Denial System (2008)

On June 21, 2010, Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the NATO forces commander General Stanley McChrystal, confirmed in an e-mail to Wired reporter Noah Shachtman that the ADS was deployed in Afghanistan. The spokesman added however that the system had not yet been used operationally.[33]

The ADS has been removed from service in Afghanistan as of July 25, 2010.[citation needed] A former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense noted that the recall of ADS from Afghanistan was an "opportunity missed" and "the non-lethality of the ADS system could prove useful in a counterinsurgency operation where avoidance of civilian casualties is essential to mission success."[34]

Potential deployment against civilians[edit]

In September 2020 it was revealed that federal officials had explored the use of the device and the Long Range Acoustic Device to disperse civilians protesting outside the White House in June of that year, but had been advised that the National Guard was not currently in possession of either device.[35][36]


There have been speculations in open literature[37] for why the ADS has not been used in a theater of operations. Some of the claimed problems expressed have included: (1) that a potential unreliability in certain environmental conditions, because precipitation (rain/snow/fog/mist) commonly dissipates RF energy, which may moderate the ADS's sensation to "warm and comfortable"; (2) that ADS may only work successfully against exposed skin, implying that heavier clothing may reduce its effectiveness and that its tactical usefulness may potentially be limited in striking specific personnel hiding in crowds of civilians, because this 'hiding' situation has not been seen in all recent theaters of operation (was reportedly observed in Somalia and Iraq, but reportedly not in Afghanistan). What the actual performance of ADS is relative to these concerns is not presently known to be published in open literature.

Active Denial System Future[edit]

Following the development of two prototype systems for the ACTD, interest remains in the technology by the military as a means to minimize collateral damage and increase force protection. Research continues on technology that will make it smaller, more reliable, and able to be used on the move, for example, in protection of convoys. [38]

Concepts for use[edit]

ADS was developed as a non-lethal weapon. According to Department of Defense policy, non-lethal weapons "are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment."[39] ADS has applications for crowd control and perimeter defense, and filling "the gap between shouting and shooting." Other crowd control methods – including pepper spray, tear gas, water cannons, slippery foam and rubber bullets – carry implicit dangers of temporary or permanent injury or accidental death, and often leave residue or residual material. Combinations of acoustic and optical system platforms with ADS can be used to effectively communicate to, warn of escalation of force, introduce optical and auditory deterrents and step function the escalation of transmitted force from relatively benign to ultimately forced dispersal of a crowd, or to deny them from an area or access to an area. A group of people can theoretically be dispersed or induced to leave an area in a manner unlikely to damage personnel, non-involved civilians (no stray bullets), or to nearby buildings or the environment.

Non-lethal weapons are intended to provide options to U.S. troops, for example, "to stop suspicious vehicles without killing the drivers".[40] Although the ADS millimeter wave frequency does not affect a car's electronic components, it can be used to deter a driver in an approaching vehicle.[41] In a broader strategic context, non-lethal weapons such as ADS have the potential to offer "precision, accuracy, and effective duration that can help save military and civilian lives, break the cycle of violence by offering a more graduated response, and even prevent violence from occurring if the opportunity for early or preclusionary engagement arises."[42]

The Council on Foreign Relations noted that "wider integration of existing types of nonlethal weapons (NLW) into the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could have helped to reduce the damage done by widespread looting and sabotage after the cessation of major conflict in Iraq."[43]

In Afghanistan, the need to minimize civilian casualties has led to restrictive rules of engagement on the use of lethal force by US troops. A National Public Radio correspondent in Afghanistan "witnessed troops grappling with the dilemma of whether to shoot."[44] Non-lethal weapons such as ADS provide an option for US forces in those situations.[32]


The effects of this radio frequency on humans have been studied by the military for years, and much, but not all of the research has been published openly in peer-reviewed journals.[45]

Active Denial System Demo

A news article criticized the sheer amount of time it is taking to field this system, citing the potential it had to avert a great deal of pain and suffering in volatile areas around the world.[46]

While it is claimed not to cause burns under "ordinary use",[47][48] it is also described as being similar to that of an incandescent light bulb being pressed against the skin,[14] which can cause severe burns in just a few seconds. The beam can be focused up to 700 meters away, and is said to penetrate thick clothing although not walls.[49] At 95 GHz, the frequency is much higher than the 2.45 GHz of a microwave oven. This frequency was chosen because it penetrates less than 1/64 of an inch (0.4 mm),[50] which – in most humans, except for eyelids and the thinner skin of babies – avoids the second skin layer (the dermis) where critical structures are found such as nerve endings and blood vessels.

The early methodology of testing, in which volunteers were asked to remove glasses, contact lenses and metallic objects that could cause hot spots, raised concerns as to whether the device would remain true to its purpose of non-lethal temporary incapacitation if used in the field where safety precautions would not be taken. However, these tests were early in the program and part of a thorough and methodical process to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the technology, which has now involved more than 600 volunteer subjects and some 10,200 exposures. As safety was demonstrated in each step of the process, restrictions were removed, and now, according to ADS proponents, there are no restrictions or precautions necessary for volunteers experiencing the effect.[51] Long-term exposure to the beam may cause more serious damage, especially to sensitive tissues, such as those of the eyes. Two people have received second degree burns after exposure to the device.[48][52]

Critics cite that, although the stated intent of the ADS is to be a non-lethal device designed to temporarily incapacitate, modifications or incorrect use by the operator could turn the ADS into a more damaging weapon that could violate international conventions on warfare (although at this time, ADS has gone through numerous treaty compliance reviews and legal reviews by AF/JAO, and in all cases complies with every treaty and law).[53]

Some have focused on the lower threshold of use which may lead those who use them to become "trigger-happy", especially in dealing with peaceful protesters. Others have focused on concerns that weapons whose operative principle is that of inflicting pain (though "non-lethal") might be useful for such purposes as torture, as they leave no evidence of use, but undoubtedly have the capacity to inflict horrific pain on a restrained subject. According to Wired, the ADS has been rejected for fielding in Iraq due to Pentagon fears that it would be regarded as an instrument of torture.[54]

Silent Guardian[edit]

Defense contractor Raytheon has developed a smaller version of the ADS, the Silent Guardian. This stripped-down model is primarily marketed for use by law enforcement agencies, the military and other security providers. The system is operated and aimed with a joystick and aiming screen. The device can be used for targets over 250 metres (820 ft) away,[14] and the beam has a power of 30 kilowatts.[55]

The Los Angeles County Jail installed the smaller-sized unit, under the name Assault Intervention Device, on the ceiling of the Pitchess Detention Center in 2014.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"NATO NAVAL ARMAMENTS GROUP: Workshop on Counter Piracy Equipment and Technologies"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on May 24, 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  2. ^"Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System (V-MADS)". Global Security. Archived from the original on March 5, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  3. ^"DVIDS - News - New Marine Corps non-lethal weapon heats things up". DVIDS. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  4. ^Ross Kerber, "Ray gun, sci-fi staple, meets reality". Boston Globe, September 24, 2004.
  5. ^"Raytheon: Silent Guardian product brief". 2006. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006.
  6. ^"US army heat-ray gun in Afghanistan". BBC News. July 15, 2010.
  7. ^"August 20, 2010 New Device Unveiled Intended to Stop or Lessen Inmate Assaults: Assault Intervention Device (AID).…". LA County Sheriff. August 20, 2010. Archived from the original on September 4, 2010.
  8. ^"US police could get 'pain beam' weapons". Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  9. ^[1]Archived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^"Non-Lethal Weapons Program". Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  11. ^"Why Russia Will Be the First to Use the Pain Ray". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  12. ^Rafi Letzer, "China's New Long-Range Weapon Causes Non-Lethal Pain which was made up by Stephen Pugh From Afar", Popular Science, 8 December 2014
  13. ^"Active Denial System: a terahertz based military deterrent for safe crowd control". Terasense Group Inc. May 29, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  14. ^ abcHambling, David (December 2006). "Techwatch-Forecasting Pain". Popular Mechanics. 183 (12): 32. ISSN 0032-4558.
  15. ^ ab[2]Archived February 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^Mike Golio, ed. (2003). Microwave and RF Product Applications. CRC Press. ISBN . Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  17. ^ abc[3]Archived February 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ abcd"Wired News: Say Hello to the Goodbye Weapon". Wired. December 5, 2006. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
  19. ^ abMillimetre Waves, Lasers, Acoustics for Non-Lethal Weapons? Physics Analyses and InferencesArchived November 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine "Ordinary household aluminum foil of many m thickness covering all parts of the body exposed towards the antenna would provide protection; gaps where the radiation could enter would have to be avoided. To allow vision a very fine-grained mesh in front of the face would be needed (holes markedly smaller than the wavelength of 3.2 mm; that is not bigger than, say, 0.1 mm)."
  20. ^Kris Osborn, "Airman injured in heat-beam test", Army Times, April 5, 2007[dead link]
  21. ^Protocol # FWR 2003-03-31-H, Limited Military Utility Assessment of the Active Denial System (ADS)cached copy[permanent dead link]
  22. ^Patrick A. Mason. "Lack of effect of 94 GHz radio frequency radiation exposure in an animal model of skin carcinogenesis". Archived from the original on April 8, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  23. ^Chalfin, S., D'Andrea, J.A., Comeau, P.D., Belt, M.E., and Hatcher, D.J. "Millimeter wave absorption in the nonhuman primate eye at 35 GHz and 94 GHz". Health Physics, 83(1): 83–90, 2002.
  24. ^"Non-Ionizing Radiation". Retrieved March 8, 2012.[dead link]
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  26. ^[4]Archived March 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
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  28. ^"Contracts for October 4, 2004". U.S. Department of Defense. October 4, 2004. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2006.
  29. ^"US military unveils heat-ray gun". BBC. January 25, 2007. Archived from the original on January 27, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2007.
  30. ^"I got zapped by a ray gun". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  31. ^"The Pentagon's Ray Gun". CBS News.
  32. ^ ab"$120 million heat ray waiting for first action". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  33. ^Shachtman, Noah (January 25, 2007). "U.S. Testing Pain Ray in Afghanistan (Updated Again)". Wired. Archived from the original on July 29, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
  34. ^"An Opportunity Missed". Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  35. ^"US military police 'sought use of heat ray' to disperse White House protesters". The Guardian. September 17, 2020.
  36. ^"Heat ray 'was sought' against protest in Washington's Lafayette Square". BBC News. September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  37. ^Death Ray Turns Warm And Fuzzy –, October 3, 2012
  38. ^
  39. ^"DoD Executive Agent for Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW), and NLW Policy"(PDF). Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  40. ^Michael O'Hanlon. "Opinion: Troops need not shoot in Afghanistan". Politico. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  41. ^[5]Archived September 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^[6]Archived March 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^Graham T. Allison. "Nonlethal Weapons and Capabilities". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  44. ^[7]Archived October 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^"Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program Website – ADS". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
  46. ^"Pentagon nixes ray gun weapon in Iraq"Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. By Richard Lardner, Associated Press.
  47. ^"Moody Airmen test new, nonlethal method of repelling enemy – Eric Schloeffel". January 25, 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  48. ^ abShachtman, Noah (April 6, 2007). "Pain Ray Injures Airman". Wired. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
  49. ^Hooper, Duncan (January 25, 2007). "US unveils 'heat gun'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  50. ^Active Denial System Factsheet. Joint non-lethal weapons program, 2007. Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^Hearn, Kelly (August 19, 2005). "Rumsfeld's Ray Gun". AlterNet. Archived from the original on August 12, 2006. Retrieved August 15, 2006.
  52. ^"PADS – Cold Stress". Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
  53. ^Joint Non-Lethal Weapons DirectorateArchived September 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Source Documentation found in numerous press releases and Media Demo Days.
  54. ^Weinberger, Sharon (August 30, 2007). "No Pain Ray for Iraq". Wired. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  55. ^Hambling, David (May 8, 2009). "'Pain ray' first commercial sale looms". Wired. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  56. ^"New 'Laser' Weapon Debuts in LA County Jail". NBC Southern California. Retrieved November 1, 2014.

The US military’s heat weapon is real and painful. Here’s what it does.

Earlier this week, an NPR report uncovered an exchange from June 1, in which a military police officer wanted to know if the D.C. National Guard owned a pain-inducing heat weapon for potentially using on protesters. He also asked about a powerful auditory communication system that’s been compared to the “voice of God.”

The weapon, the Active Denial System (ADS), is a real thing, as is the sound system, which is called a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

In documents published by NPR, a member of the National Guard recounted the email thread in which the question was asked, and stated: “I responded that the DC National Guard was not in possession of either an LRAD or an ADS.”

The fact that a controversial weapon was floated as a possible means of dealing with what the Washington Postdescribed as “peaceful protesters” has sparked outrage, with the ACLU writing on Twitter: “REMINDER: Our government shouldn’t be conspiring to use heat rays against us for exercising our constitutional rights.”

The ADS referenced in this conversation comes from the US military, and it’s not new. To understand why such non-lethal science-fiction-type machines were developed, it helps to wind back the clock to the 1990s, says Mark Cancian, a senior advisor for the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“This family of capabilities grew out of the DOD’s experience in the 1990s in Bosnia and Somalia,” Cancian says. “In both instances, you have [the] military dealing with civilians, who could be violent, but weren’t really combatants.” The intention was to create new kinds of tools that were somewhere between a rifle, and close-range crowd-control gear, like shields and batons.

Cancian has experience in this field. He served in the Marines on active duty for 11 years, and also directed the Land Forces Division (a part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense) from 1995 to 2006. His office reviewed the budget and programs of an entity formerly called the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. Today, it’s called the Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office.

Because of this experience in Bosnia and Somalia, he says, the Department of Defense “created this non-lethal directorate to explore a whole bunch of technologies.”

“A lot of them do relate to crowd-control,” he adds, “but there were also some anti-boat capabilities, and anti-vehicle capabilities.”

The Long Range Acoustic Device

While the ADS was designed as a non-lethal weapon, the LRAD is a communications system. It came about after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole made it clear that giving the military a way to clearly speak to people from afar could be helpful, according to David Schnell, a vice president at Genasys, the company that makes it. The devices create a 30-degree beam of sound that, depending on the model, can reach as far away as 250 yards, or even more than 1,500 yards. Each branch of the military uses it as well as the National Guard; the Navy employs one on each ship, he says.

Schnell also notes that LRADs are used by civilians, like with police departments or lifeguards. The “operators’ manuals and training emphasize the responsible, safe use of these systems,” he says via email.

Cancian remembers receiving a demonstration of the LRAD in Iraq in 2007. “It was like the voice of God,” he says. In fact, he says, that’s the system’s nickname. He points out that unlike a megaphone, the sound produced by the LRAD is “a very focused beam.” The military employed it at checkpoints in that country, he says, to ensure civilians heard instructions even if they were inside a noisy car where the radio might be on, and thus hopefully didn’t get shot.


The Active Denial System

Then there’s the ADS—the heat weapon. It works, according to the Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office’s FAQ page on the weapon, by producing radio waves. It creates a “focused beam of millimeter waves at a frequency of 95 gigahertz”; that beam is “only physically capable of reaching a skin depth of about 1/64 of an inch.” The same page describes the process through which they tested the weapon on volunteers, as well as two burn injuries from it, one in 1999 and the other in 2007.

Cancian says that he has seen the ADS work, but has not personally experienced it. He notes that it doesn’t employ an infrared beam, but instead uses shallow, pain-producing millimeter waves. “What you are feeling is not your skin cooking, but you’re feeling a sensation of pain,” he says. “If you get out of the line of fire, you don’t have a red spot.” Those who have experienced it comment that “it feels like your skin is on fire,” he says.

It’s unclear if the system has ever been used operationally—Cancian says he doesn’t know, although it reportedly has not. Jamal Beck, a public affairs spokesman for Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office in Quantico, Virginia, notes by email to Popular Science that “two residual prototype systems” of the ADS exist but that they are “not fielded to the Marine Corps or in the Marine Corps’ inventory.” Reports in Wiredfrom 2012 (in which a reporter experienced getting zapped by it) and 2010 state that even if it was sent to Afghanistan, it wasn’t used there.

Ultimately, a weapon like the ADS sits outside of the realm of norms that surround more conventional weapons, says Philipp Bleek, an associate professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “There’s something about exposing people to the feeling of being burned—intensely burned—that I think is instinctively horrifying to people,” he says.

This article has been updated for accuracy and to provide more information on the LRAD.

Rob Verger

Denial system active

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Defense Department's Active Denial System a Game-Changer

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Well, how did Alyoshenka sleep.

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