In the News

News | Jan. 26, 2007

DoD Shows Off Non-lethal Energy Weapon

By Sgt. Sara Wood American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department this week unveiled its first non-lethal, counterpersonnel, directed-energy weapon.

The Active Denial System works by emitting a directed beam of millimeter wave energy, which creates an intolerable heating sensation on an adversary’s skin, causing an instantaneous repel effect without causing injury, according to a DoD news release.

ADS has the potential to fill a need troops have identified on the battlefield, said Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

“Our warfighters have identified a need for additional non-lethal capabilities because distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants on the modern battlefield can be very difficult,” Hymes said. “We need discriminate, non-lethal weapons with longer ranges and universal effects. This is exactly what we get with ADS.”

More than 12 years of research have gone into the development and testing of the millimeter wave technology in the ADS, according to the release. In 2001, the technology was designated as an advanced concept technology demonstration, which is a DoD initiative to speed the transfer of advanced technologies to warfighters.

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 DoD’s 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.”

Members of the media were invited to get up close and personal with the ADS at a demonstration Jan. 24 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., where the ADS will be based. The day allowed members of both print and broadcast media outlets to interact with experts who helped develop and design the technology and those who conducted the human effects testing of the system. Attendees also were offered the opportunity to voluntarily experience the effect of ADS in an actual target-engagement scenario.

“We want to take every opportunity to demystify this capability and to provide accurate information about its safety and effectiveness,” Hymes said. “It was important that the members of the media were able to judge for themselves the effectiveness of the weapon and see firsthand how safe it is. We can give hundreds of briefings and slide presentations, but there is nothing like seeing and experiencing for yourself how very effective and safe this capability is.”

The ADS has been assigned to the 820th Security Forces Group at Moody Air Force Base for the extended user evaluation phase of the advanced concept technology demonstration. The 820th SFG will incorporate the ADS into its training and exercise plan until mid-2007, officials said.