Heat ‘Em Up

Last week, the Defense Department showcased its "Active Denial System" or ADS At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Officially this system is still in "extended user evaluation" phase of an ACTD (advanced concept technology demonstration). They aren’t being produced in quantities to ship to Iraq, although I’m sure the troops there wouldn’t mind having a few in Baghdad. This system uses millimeter wave energy to cause an uncomfortable hot sensation, designed to encourage people to a hasty retreat from the scene.


The ADS has gone thorough treaty and legal reviews to ensure the system is compliant with applicable arms control treaties and agreements, according to the release. It has also undergone three military utility assessments, where it was evaluated in a variety of operational scenarios ranging from checkpoint support to facility, perimeter and harbor security.
Most of DoDs current non-lethal weapons, such as bean bag rounds, use kinetic energy, Hymes said. With these weapons, the size and mass of the target and the distance at which the weapon is used can change the effect of the weapon, perhaps making it more dangerous, he explained.
The ADS, on the other hand, is a muzzle-safe weapon, which means it is safe and effective at 50 feet and 500 meters, Hymes said. The range, safety, universal effect, and tremendous repel capability make the ADS a very versatile non-lethal weapon with a great deal of military utility.

Other people are more skeptical. German physicist Juergen Altmann points out that non-lethal weapons (or as some prefer, "less-lethal") are not without the capability for lethal results.

"It only stays at 50 degrees Celsius if the beam is switched off at the correct time, let’s say after 3.5 seconds," he says. "If you beam on for a further three or five seconds, then you get 60 and 70 and 80 degrees, and you get second- and third-degree burns on the whole part of the body that is exposed, because the beam is at least 3 meters wide, and probably a little wider. You get essentially half of the body exposed that is pointing toward the antenna. And then there is the potential for life-threatening conditions. Medical literature says that if you have somebody who has second- or third-degree burns on more than 20 percent of his body, then he has to be put into intensive care, because it’s life-threatening."

Concerns such as these may be why DOD is getting some early press on the system. While the Department says that the system has cleared treaty and legal issues, there will always be the perception that military personnel don’t use non-lethal weapons without causing some casualties. DefenseTech has covered the evolution of this system for some time, and captured this Marine officer’s comment in response to a question: what if the bad guys try to deflect the beam?

"If they try and deflect beams then we will kill them because we know what their intentions are. "

OKAY! good to know that the non-lethal weapons are of some use, in at least identifying the bad guys to shoot. For the final word, let’s go to the Colbert Report. On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert talked about the ADS (it had been featured on Faux News). He commented, "This is the perfect weapon for the war on terror. What’s better than an invisible beam to fight an abstract concept?"

Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair Generalist

  • pedestrian

    Can we cook popcorn with this ;)

  • Hoax Meister

    Deflection–accidental or deliberate–could certainly be a problem if used in urban areas. Just imagine how pissed off a squad of Marines would be if they accidentally got cooked because this beam hit a reflective surface the wrong way. Whole new meaning to the words “friendly fire”…
    I’m guessing the Interceptor vest will have to be “uparmored” for this new weapon.

  • Macaca

    I’d rather be hit by a random bullet then burned alive.
    I’ve heard from people that have big 2nd or 3rd degree’s that it was (or still is) the most agonizing thing they have ever experienced (including all kinds of blunt and sharp trauma’s and child-birth).

  • Jason

    You know, the more I think about it, I wonder about the training and leadership aspects. I could see a mob situation where people don’t have the option to “disperse quietly” and they are unable to flee. Then some trooper turns on the ray gun and says, well, if I keep it up, they’ll move. Having had 2d degree burns, I concur Macaca that it’s not fun. There better be some careful training with this system.
    Over at my site, Alex says “Hmmm, that dish looks like it ought to have “Point RPG Here” painted on it.”

  • Haninah

    Love the scare-quotes around the word “‘kinetic’ energy” in the DefLink press release. America’s press corps: scientifically illiterate since 1776.

  • Dale

    Just a giant microwave? Not really, the “millimeter bandwidth” is what will keep it from cooking people but will still cause burns if left on too long. It does take some time however. Whats to stop the BG’s from just going around the corner? And, what about a reflective suit? Should buy stock in Alcoa Aluminum I guess.

  • Macaca

    @ Jasons quote: would an RPG explode when it rips through that dish? Or is it so thin it would pass through? I see some very interesting scenario’s there.

  • stephen russell

    Great Burn those drug gangs out X the US Mex border or burn those riotters.
    2 bad system is not airborne IE HH53 or Huey.
    Ground & air mobile Pain ADS.
    Great for PD Forces & NG Forces.
    Test in Iraq.