By Lolita C. Baldor
The Associated Press
Tuesday 12 September 2006
Air Force official says nonlethal weapons should be used on people in crowd-control situations.
Washington - Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.
Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions in the international community over any possible safety concerns, said Secretary Michael Wynne.
"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."
The Air Force has funded research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service isn't likely to spend more money on development until injury issues are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.
Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam. Some of the weapons can emit short, intense energy pulses that also can be effective in disabling some electronic devices.
On another subject, Wynne said he expects to pick a new contractor for the next generation aerial refueling tanking by next summer. He said a draft request for bids will be put out next month, and there are two qualified bidders: The Boeing Co. and a team of Northrop Grumman Corp. and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., the majority owner of European jet maker Airbus SAS.
The contract is expected to be worth at least $20 billion.
Chicago-based Boeing lost the tanker deal in 2004 amid revelations that it had hired a top Air Force acquisitions official who had given the company preferential treatment.
Wynne also said the Air Force, which is already chopping 40,000 active duty, civilian and reserves jobs, is now struggling to find new ways to slash about $1.8 billion from its budget to cover costs from the latest round of base closings.
He said he can't cut more people, and it would not be wise to take funding from military programs that are needed to protect the country. But, he said he also encounters resistance when he tries to save money on operations and maintenance by retiring aging aircraft.
"We're finding out that those are, unfortunately, prized possessions of some congressional districts," said Wynne, adding that the Air Force will have to "take some appetite suppressant pills," he said. He said he has asked employees to look for efficiencies in their offices.
The base closings initially were expected to create savings by reducing Air Force infrastructure by 24 percent.
Say Hello to the Goodbye Weapon
More information on the "microwave weapon."
By David Hambling
02:00 AM Dec, 05, 2006
The crowd is getting ugly. Soldiers roll up in a Hummer. Suddenly, the whole right half of your body is screaming in agony. You feel like you've been dipped in molten lava. You almost faint from shock and pain, but instead you stumble backwards -- and then start running. To your surprise, everyone else is running too. In a few seconds, the street is completely empty.
You've just been hit with a new nonlethal weapon that has been certified for use in Iraq -- even though critics argue there may be unforeseen effects.
According to documents obtained for Wired News under federal sunshine laws, the Air Force's Active Denial System, or ADS, has been certified safe after lengthy tests by military scientists in the lab and in war games.
The ADS shoots a beam of millimeters waves, which are longer in wavelength than x-rays but shorter than microwaves -- 94 GHz (= 3 mm wavelength) compared to 2.45 GHz (= 12 cm wavelength) in a standard microwave oven.
The longer waves are thought to limit the effects of the radiation. If used properly, ADS will produce no lasting adverse affects, the military argues.
Documents acquired for Wired News using the Freedom of Information Act claim that most of the radiation (83 percent) is instantly absorbed by the top layer of the skin, heating it rapidly.
The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds.
"It will repel you," one test subject said. "If hit by the beam, you will move out of it -- reflexively and quickly. You for sure will not be eager to experience it again."
But while subjects may feel like they have sustained serious burns, the documents claim effects are not long-lasting. At most, "some volunteers who tolerate the heat may experience prolonged redness or even small blisters," the Air Force experiments concluded.
The reports describe an elaborate series of investigations involving human subjects.
The volunteers were military personnel: active, reserve or retired, who volunteered for the tests. They were unpaid, but the subjects would "benefit from direct knowledge that an effective nonlethal weapon system could soon be in the inventory," said one report. The tests ranged from simple exposure in the laboratory to elaborate war games involving hundreds of participants.
The military simulated crowd control situations, rescuing helicopter crews in a Black Hawk Down setting and urban assaults. More unusual tests involved alcohol, attack dogs and maze-like obstacle courses.
In more than 10,000 exposures, there were six cases of blistering and one instance of second-degree burns in a laboratory accident, the documents claim.
The ADS was developed in complete secrecy for 10 years at a cost of $40 million. Its existence was revealed in 2001 by news reports, but most details of ADS human testing remain classified. There has been no independent checking of the military's claims.
The ADS technology is ready to deploy, and the Army requested ADS-armed Strykers for Iraq last year. But the military is well aware that any adverse publicity could finish the program, and it does not want to risk distressed victims wailing about evil new weapons on CNN.
This may mean yet more rounds of testing for the ADS.
New bombs can be rushed into service in a matter of weeks, but the process is more complex for nonlethal weapons. It may be years before the debates are resolved and the first directed-energy nonlethal weapon is used in action.
The development of a truly safe and highly effective nonlethal crowd-control system could raise enormous ethical questions about the state's use of coercive force. If a method such as ADS leads to no lasting injury or harm, authorities may find easier justifications for employing them.