Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ready Or Not? Active Denial: Crowd Control Through Directed Energy

[UPDATED below]

The ray gun called "active denial" is in the news again; Here's my Australian friend, Gandhi, in full:

What If They Developed A Weapon That Was Too Horrible To Use?
Apparently the military in Iraq is screaming out for Raytheon's heat gun but the Pentagon won't let them use it:
The main reason the tool has been missing in action is public perception. With memories of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal still fresh, the Pentagon is reluctant to give troops a space-age device that could be misconstrued as a torture machine.

"We want to just make sure that all the conditions are right, so when it is able to be deployed the system performs as predicted — that there isn't any negative fallout," said Col. Kirk Hymes, head of the Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

Reviews by military lawyers concluded it is a lawful weapon under current rules governing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Nov. 15 document prepared by Marine Corps officials in western Iraq.

Private organizations remain concerned, however, because documentation that supports the testing and legal reviews is classified. There's no way to independently verify the Pentagon's claims, said Stephen Goose of Human Rights Watch in Washington.
There are unconfirmed rumours that the heat gun can kill when set to max.

And cost also appears to be a major issue: any such weapon would be a major target of the insurgency, and at several million dollars per machine (they wont say exactly what it costs) that could blow a major hole in the budget. The Pentagon has spent $62 million developing and testing the system, which now looks like a waste of money - maybe they should bring it to APEC, where it's less likely to get damaged?
The photo above is clearly a computer-generated "sketch" of the jeep-mounted ray-gun; the lower photo apparently shows what one actually looks like.

A few more quotes and links to flesh out the story:

SF Gate : Pentagon Nixes Ray Gun Weapon in Iraq (or here)
Prototype units have been assembled by the military, the most promising being a larger model that sits on the back of a flatbed truck. This single unit, known as System 2, could be sent to Iraq as early as next year, according to Hymes of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

Hymes' office, which nurtures promising technologies that can be used by the military branches, plans to spend $9 million over the next two years on the effort.

Money for additional systems isn't likely to be available until 2010, when an Air Force command in Massachusetts is expected to take control of the program, he said.

Recognizing the potential market, defense contractor Raytheon has invested its own money to build a version that the company calls "Silent Guardian." Although Hymes said the Raytheon product "is not ready yet," company representatives say it is.
I find this disagreement a bit strange, but I still don't know what to make of it. I'd like to agree with Gandhi out of friendship if nothing else, but I can't quite convince myself he's right about why the Pentagon won't use it in Iraq, not to mention why this weapons system has apparently been slow-tracked.

It doesn't make sense to me that they'd worry about a non-lethal weapon being perceived (or portrayed) as an instrument of torture, when they don't seem to flinch about calling airstrikes on civilian residential areas. And while the cost per weapon may be high, I haven't really seen any indication that they're worrying much about money. So I want to suspend judgment for a while on why the development of this non-lethal weapon appears to have been slowed down intentionally.

A more cynical man might say the Pentagon is only interested in lethal weapons, except for PR purposes. A more paranoid writer might hint that the Pentagon wants to keep the "active denial" systems on the home front, for use against domestic protest, should any significant domestic protest ever develop.

January 25, 2007:
Sydney Morning Herald : 'Active denial' ray gun
The military calls its new weapon an "active denial system," but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless - a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.

Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, officials said.

During the first media demonstration of the weapon yesterday, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and acting out other scenarios that US troops might encounter in war zones.

The device's two-man crew located their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from 500 metres away. That is nearly 17 times the range of existing non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets.

Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body.

While the heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.
January 26, 2007:
Reuters Alternet : US eyes heat-beaming weapon by 2010 (or here)
"This is a breakthrough technology that's going to give our forces a capability they don't now have," Theodore Barna, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts, told Reuters. "We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010."

Documents given out during the demonstration said more than 600 volunteers were exposed to the ray a total of more than 10,000 times since testing began over 12 years ago. They said there had been no injuries requiring medical attention during the five-year advanced development program.
What about the first seven years?

SF Gate again:
The system was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico. During more than 12 years of testing, only two injuries requiring medical attention have been reported; both were second-degree burns, according to the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate Web site.

American commanders in Iraq already have asked to buy Raytheon's device.

A Dec. 1, 2006, urgent request signed by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert Neller sought eight Silent Guardians.

Neller, then the deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, called the lack of such a non-lethal weapon a "chronic deficiency" that "will continue to harm" efforts to resolve showdowns with as little firepower as possible.

Huggins, then chief of staff of the Multi-National Force in Iraq and now deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, wanted 14 vehicles for missions ranging from raids to convoy escorts.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq from its base in Tampa, Fla., backed the request, saying it was "critical to build upon our success in the counterinsurgency battle," according to its memo to the Pentagon.

The vehicles were not delivered, however.

In an interview, Franz Gayl, who was Neller's science adviser until the unit returned in February, blamed an entrenched, "risk-averse" military acquisition system for moving too slowly.

Gayl calls the system a "disruptive innovation" — an unconventional piece of equipment that breaks new ground and therefore is viewed skeptically by the offices that buy combat gear.
This idea -- that ground-breaking gear could (or maybe even should) be rejected because it's "disruptive" -- may seem crazy, but it is one of the oldest and most commonly recurring themes in military history. Most famously, perhaps, Poland was crushed by the German Panzers at the beginning of WWII, after the Polish general staff had insisted that cavalry was the best way to defend their homeland.

Predictably, the men on horseback stood no chance against the tanks.

But I really don't get so much as a whiff of this being an operative factor here.

None of the stories ring true, exactly ... and maybe it's because they're all coming from sources that have proven untrustworthy (with the exception of Gandhi, of course -- and he may very well be right!)

But given the US military's track record of bombing hundreds of innocent civilians on the outside chance of killing one or two terrorists, I can't help wondering if the thinking at the command level goes something like this:

"If we almost-burn them for just a nanosecond or two, they'll get up and fight us again. But if we blow their heads off, we we'll never have to worry about retaliation."

I don't want to think like that. But on the other hand, given everything else we know about this war, and about this administration, and given the Pentagon's penchant for lying about everything all the time, it's hard not to speculate. And unfortunately, a good deal of yesterday's wild speculation has already become today's reality.

And maybe the blood they really don't want to spill is yours!

But somehow I doubt that, too. In a fog of propaganda, doubt is the only rational position. I doubt therefore I am. Or more properly, I doubt we'll see big protests in the USA anytime soon, but I'm almost certain that if such a thing does transpire, active denial will be there. The protesters would "only" need a non-violent method of disarming a ray gun more than a quarter of a mile away.

What do you think? Am I close to the mark here? Just a bit outside? Away wide?

I'd be especially interested in opinions of readers with military backgrounds. Maybe our friend Ranger Against War will be able to enlighten us ... I'll send him an email and we'll see what comes back.


UPDATE: The comments thread is already very good. There's a lot more from Bluebear2 (here and here). I should have linked to those posts earlier. Please pardon my negligence.

There's also a great comment from z-ee describing how to defeat these multi-million-dollar monsters:
Please,.. please,.. please,..

If any progressive writer delves into the subject of the "non-lethal" active denial control system such as Gandhi, Bukko, or Winter Patriot please mention and share the details of a low cost defeat system that renders the mobile active denial system a worthless piece of junk at best. Or at worst an expensive weapons system that the armed force uses against their opponent - and the opponent then bounces the bullet (energy ray) (ricochet if you will) back at the armed forces from which the danger came. Thus inflicting harm to the source from which the weapon system was initially launched.

The Active Denial Defeat System:

(These could be built into protest signs used at a demonstration and screwed onto the pole of the protest sign. If the Active Denial System is trotted out - unscrew the defeat system from the protest sign and bounce/reflect the energy beam back at the counter protester armed force.)

Items needed:

2 count - 2 feet X 3 feet piece of rigid cardboard or white (foam sandwiched) board.

Large sheets of gold or silver Mylar or heavy duty aluminum foil.



Duct tape the two boards together along the long edge. On one side mount the foil/mylar reflective surface. Fold at the duct tape seam so one foil side touches the other foil side. On the exposed outside surface make your protest sign and screw it to a hand pole.

Counter measure if the Active Denial System is deployed:

Dismantle the protest signs by unscrewing the board from the hand pole. Open the board at a 90 degree angle with the foiled side exposed toward the source of the Active Denial System. (Assume the squat position) Capture the energy rays into your reflector antenna to protect your fellow protesters - and bounce the energy ray in the direction of the counter protest government armed forces. The energy beam will now inflict harm upon them.

This counter measure should be published far and wide. This is built upon the engineering principals of a "reflector antenna" - more specifically a CORNER REFLECTOR ANTENNA.

Please see links,..


Corner Reflector Antenna

Reflector Antenna General Principals.
Thanks to BB2 and z-ee for helping us all out here.