Saturday, October 27, 2007

Holy Star Wars! The Army’s Got Ray Guns!

They were just rolled out last week. Not one, but two of them. One can be mounted on a Humvee (the one at left is on a truck bed) and is used to disperse crowds non-lethally and get people to drop their weapons (I think . . . didn’t they say Tasers were non-lethal awhile back?).

They call it an “Active Denial System” (named after the Republican Party’s platform, I take it) and it shoots a focused beam of microwaves at people. The waves can travel 500 meters, pass through clothing and penetrates the skin to a depth of 0.4 mm (about a 64th of an inch). At its operating frequency of 96 gigahertz, that classifies these electromagnetic waves in the microwave range.

And heat you up is literally what they do. They excite the water molecules within your skin cells like a microwave oven heats your soup, raising your skin temperature to a very uncomfortable 54 °C (130 °F). Not enough to burn you but enough to make you think that your clothes are on fire.

They say it’s like standing in front of a blast furnace door and it opens suddenly. The system is built by Raytheon, the same military contractor that brought us Patriot Missiles.

And speaking of missiles, we have another anti-aircraft system now, another ray gun that uses another family of electromagnetic radiation to destroy planes. It’s mounted on the bed of a truck along with two Stinger missile batteries and a 50 cal machine gun. Two of the three components exist, it’s called the Avenger anti-aircraft system. They added the third, the Avenger laser. That’s right it’s a laser beam but at 1 kilowatt, it’s a powerful beam that has destroyed UAVs on the ground. Air tests are in its future. They can also use it to zap IEDs and unexploded ordnance.

I like it that we have tools to give our soldiers a hand, maybe save a few American and Iraqi lives (maybe). What I don’t like about it is the weapons deployment schedule. There is no information on when the Avenger system can be deployed, but it looks like they’re not even in production at this point. The Active Denial System, however, is said to be 12 months away from being delivered to Iraq.

So it looks like Iraqis, and American voters, are going to be getting an October Surprise.

1 comment:

Aoibhann said...

Hopefully what is taking so long is adding the armor plating to the trucks. It would be a pity to see these expensive, advanced systems and their personnel go bye-bye with one well-placed $1.97 IED made by someone with the IQ of a canteloupe.