Research Shows Non-lethal Weapon Safe

Extensive bioeffects research completed recently by Air Force Research Lab scientists has shown that the Active Denial System, a millimeter-wave directed-energy weapon, can be used safely operationally in counter-personnel roles. Data showed that the millimeter waves “do not promote cancer or cause reproductive problems,” writes Dr. Gordon Hengst of AFRL’s human effectiveness directorate in a Sept. 26 release. And researchers were able to define skin and eye exposure thresholds, as well as levels at which effective repel of humans occurs, thus allowing ADS to be employed “while maintaining a significant safety margin,” to keep its effects nonlethal in nature, he said. (That said, we know of at least one case where a test volunteer sustained second-degree burns while in the path of the invisible millimeter-wave beam.) The ADS program is the first instance wherein a nonlethal weapon was founded on bioeffects research that occurred prior to, rather than subsequent to, development of the weapon, Hengst noted. The Air Force was the lead service in the development of ADS under an Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored advanced concept technology demonstration. Both a mobile prototype, first tested last year, and a containerized, deployable version were produced by Raytheon during the demo.