The military has a new field manual for tasers, laser dazzlers, pepper spray, and sonic blasters. Field Manual 3.22-40: Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Tactical Employment of Nonlethal Weapons looks at all kinds of weaponry and military approaches where the design is not to kill.
"The prevalence of urbanization in many crisis-prone regions of the world creates the potential for large, vulnerable groups of civilians to be entrapped in volatile operations in urban terrain," the manual notes. So maybe it'd be better to use techniques and tools that are a bit less deadly. (cont...)
How I was zapped by a heat wave gun
But my mind was still conjuring up the impact of a scalding shower or a burning iron as I stared, 500 yards down the firing range, at the unnerving sight of an armoured vehicle with the large antenna dish of its Active Denial System (ADS) pointing directly at me.
Then the officer standing next to me used his radio to call in the strike.
A moment later, jolted by a blast of directed energy delivered at the speed of light, I was squirming, grimacing and heading rapidly for cover - just as intended.
It felt as if I had opened a furnace with my face too close and been hit by a wall of scorching heat. Or, that I had been exposed to a searing draft of air from a huge hair-dryer, turned to extra hot - around 130F, to be precise.
Either way, it was intolerable after just a couple of seconds and I scurried out of the way - fast. But as soon as I escaped the fire zone, the temporary burning sensation subsided, although my skin continued tingling for several minutes.
I was the only British journalist invited by the US military's Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate to join a small group of reporters and some Pentagon top brass to experience the ADS first-hand at the base in Quantico, Virginia.
The aim was to spread the word that the device, nicknamed the Silent Guardian, is neither sinister nor dangerous. In an age when the US military has been dogged by allegations of torture at secret bases, such perceptions are crucial.
As the weapon's operator, Senior Airman Robert Hudspeth was the man immediately responsible for my suffering. Sitting in the passenger seat of a Humvee, he had first trained his camera on me, fixing me in the crosshairs on the touch-screen in front of him.
When the driver had separately checked on his own screen that I was the right target, the young airman squeezed the red trigger on a joystick to release the invisible beam of millimetre waves at me from the antenna on the vehicle's roof.
The energy struck my skin but only penetrated 1/64th inch (the thickness of three sheets of paper).
"It would be very useful technology in the field in Iraq," said Airman Hudspeth, who has witnessed the need for better ways to control angry and threatening crowds during two tours there. (cont...)
Military prepares to support states in disaster
Joint Interagency Coordination Group responds to simulated attacks
National emergency exercises emphasize real-world experience