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FACTSHEET | May 11, 2020

Active Denial Technology

What is it?

Active Denial Technology (ADT) produces a focused beam of directed energy (DE) to provide the Joint Force with an option to stop, deter and turn back suspicious individuals with minimal risk of injury. ADT is an intermediate force capability designed to bridge the gap between presence and lethal force without causing unnecessary destruction or loss of life. 

How does it work?

Traveling at the speed of light, an invisible DE beam of radio frequency millimeter waves engages the subject, penetrating skin to a depth of only about 1/64th of an inch—the equivalent of three sheets of printer paper. This repel effect produces an intolerable heating sensation, compelling the targeted individual to instinctively move. It ceases immediately after the individual moves out of the beam or when the operator turns off the ADT system. There is minimal risk of injury due to the shallow energy penetration of the skin, normal human instinctive reactions, and system engineering controls.

Operational Impact

Active Denial Technology systems produce reversible effects at distances up to and beyond small arms range, providing U.S. forces with additional decision time and space to validate that a perceived hostile intent/act is, in fact, hostile. ADT may be used to complement force application and force protection missions, to include maneuver, patrol and convoy protection, perimeter security, and other defensive and offensive operations from fixed-site or mobile platforms.

Legacy Configuration

From 2002 to 2007, the Active Denial System Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration integrated and packaged Active Denial Technology into two system configurations. System 1, the technology prototype, integrated the technology into a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. System 2 was built as an armored, containerized system transportable by tactical vehicles. Both systems successfully completed a series of land and maritime-based military utility assessments. In 2014-2015 System1 was refurbished into a more robust and mobile system transported by a Marine Corps MTVR truck.

Both prototypes are long range, large spot sizes systems and are available for Service or Combatant Command exercises and are suitable for operational employment.

Human Effects

Demonstration and testing of the large-scale version of ADT included more than 12,000 exposures on volunteers in static environments and realistic operational assessments. Laboratory research and full-scale test results demonstrated that there is less than a one-tenth of one percent chance of injury from system exposure. Research on the safety and effectiveness of 95 gigahertz millimeter wave directed energy has been peer-reviewed in numerous professional journals and independently reviewed by a Human Effects Advisory Panel. 

Technology Demonstrations

Due to the novel nature of the Active Denial Technology non-lethal effect, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program has had a proactive strategy in raising the awareness on the benefits, safety and effectiveness of this new technology. Several major broadcast and print media reporters have attended technology demonstrations, allowing for first-hand accounts on experiencing the effect of System 1 or 2. Active Denial Technology has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, the Discovery Channel’s Future Weapons program and the History Channel’s Modern Marvels program. A U.S. Marines-produced Active Denial Technology video can be viewed here.

Next Generation ADT Configuration

From 2010 to 2015, a significantly more compact (less than two tons), shorter-range, solid-state technology-based ADS was built in partnership with the U.S. Army, and is also available for testing and evaluation. 

A video about one of these new technologies can be viewed here.

Future Efforts

A third configuration of ADT leverages further advancements in solid-state gallium nitride (GaN) Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits. The U.S. Army is looking to improve size, weight, and power-cost/cooling (SWAP-C2) for integration into various mobile platforms. GaN is much more efficient than silicon for integrated circuits and is one of the core technologies that facilitates SWAP-C2 improvements.

Additional efforts include:

  • Operational assessments
  • NATO case studies
  • Reduce size and weight in:
    •  prime power generation
    • cooling alternatives
    • antenna design
    • armoring
  • Incorporate ADT with other technologies as a system-of-systems for broader applications
  • Leverage human effects research to inform optimal system design parameters
  • W-band transparent armor