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News | Sept. 14, 2009

United States May Join NATO’s Non-Lethal Weapons Defence Against Terrorism Initiative

By Jennifer Bowen Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate

QUANTICO, Va. – International Security Assistance Force, the NATO command in Afghanistan, is looking to increase its non-lethal capabilities. In response to a direct ISAF request for non-lethal weapons, NATO's Conference of National Armaments Directors authorized a Defense Against Terrorism initiative specifically for non-lethal weapons, labeled DAT-11.

The Department of Defense defines non-lethal weapons as "weapons, devices and munitions that are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate targeted personnel or materiel immediately, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel and undesired damage to property in the target area or environment. Non-lethal weapons are intended to have reversible effects on personnel and materiel." Non-lethal weapons provide warfighters with escalation-of-force options when lethal force is not the best first response. These capabilities assist warfighters in discerning intent, delaying and deterring individuals, and discriminating targets in a variety of missions ranging from full-scale combat to humanitarian relief — all while minimizing casualties and collateral damage.

U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan under U.S. command have non-lethal weapons. NATO troops serving in Afghanistan, including U.S. troops serving under ISAF, have access to non-lethal weapons only if their individual nations provide them. This inconsistency creates interoperability issues and leaves capability gaps throughout ISAF. Through DAT-11, NATO hopes to increase the availability of non-lethal weapons for all ISAF troops.

The United States is considering joining DAT-11 because of the initiative's high visibility and potential to increase alliance non-lethal weapon capabilities in Afghanistan, according to John Nelson, senior international defense analyst for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. If the United States joins DAT-11, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program will participate in the initiative on behalf of the U.S. military and may also lead one or more of the initiative's demonstrations or experiments.

"The JNLWP's potential involvement with DAT-11 can support both JNLWP and DAT-11 objectives," said Nelson. "Ultimately, the knowledge gained through DAT-11 efforts can help get non-lethal capabilities into the hands of both American and allied warfighters, potentially saving lives and limiting collateral damage."

DAT-11 began in October 2008, with planned completion by the end of 2011. The initiative plans to develop a database that includes:
  • information on soon-to-be-fielded non-lethal weapons, highlighting effects, performance and effectiveness information
  • non-lethal weapon tactics, techniques and procedures
  • non-lethal weapon national legal evaluations
  • other non-lethal weapon supporting information
DAT-11 also plans to conduct at least one non-lethal weapon technology demonstration. The demonstration will focus on non-lethal technologies that are relevant to ISAF needs and that are either currently available or may be available in the next two to three years.

Canada serves as the lead nation for DAT-11. Other initiative participants include the United States, six other NATO member nations, several NATO organizations and Russia.