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United States Science Technology

US Military Tests Non-Lethal Heat Ray 420

URSpider writes "CNN and the BBC are reporting on a US military test of a new antipersonnel heat ray. The weapon focuses non-lethal millimeter-wave radiation onto humans, raising their skin surface temperature to an uncomfortable 130 F. The goal is to make the targets drop any weapons and flee the scene. The device was apparently tested on two soldiers and a group of ten reporters, which makes me wonder how thoroughly this thing has been safety tested. The government is also appealing to the scientific community for help in creating another innovative military technology: artificial 'black ice'. They hope to deploy the 'ice' in chase scenarios to slow fleeing vehicles." We discussed the military's certification to use the device last month.
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US Military Tests Non-Lethal Heat Ray

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  • by silentounce ( 1004459 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#17750688) Homepage
    "The device was apparently tested on two soldiers and a group of ten reporters, which makes me wonder how thoroughly this thing has been safety tested."
    You're worried about the soldiers, right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by displague ( 4438 )
      I read an article [] about this elsewhere and they mentioned that it has been tested on 10,000 people without a single injury requiring medical attention.
  • split opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Slepnir ( 585350 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#17750698) Journal
    One one hand, a bunch of Iraqis with burns they can claim was caused by the Great Satan's hellfire gun is about the last thing we need. On the other hand, it's better than giving them a sudden case of lead poisoning.
    • Here's what I wonder, though: on who will it be used?

      On enemy soldiers? If someone is dead set on ventilating your brain, what's to stop them from using some kind of shielding? If it's millimeter wave, it's still possible to block it, for example, with a fine enough metal mesh. You can see through it (poorly) to aim the gun. Plus, guiding a weapon via a periscope isn't exactly a new idea. Any tank or APC includes such devices.

      Will it protect against a sniper in Iraq? Well, no, because if you knew where the
      • TFA (or one similar) cited a grunt in Iraq who says it's common practice for insurgents to feign auto trouble in order to have time to scout US positions.

        This would be used to convince them to move along....
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
          Oh, genius. So, let's indescriminately torture innocent people whose cars have broken down in order to mildly inconvenience the 1% who are hostile. Truly, it will bring the War on Hearts and Minds to a speedy conclusion.
      • This will be used on peaceful protesters in the US, and will be sold to other repressive regimes for use against their own citizens. There is no use for it in Iraq.
      • by rlp ( 11898 )
        OK, here's a scenario for you. You're in an urban area surrounded by a (possibly hostile) crowd of civilians. Suddenly, someone in the crowd starts shooting at you. You don't want to continue to take fire. You don't want to fire into the crowd. So you use this device. Result - individuals in the crowd are angry at you. Shooter gets away. But, 1) you didn't kill any civilians, and 2) insurgents can no longer meld into crowds and attack effectively.
      • by phayes ( 202222 )
        Stone/Molotov throwing mobs have become a major problem in many countries. While often lethal to bystanders and more rarely to the authorities, they aren't considered to be valid targets for firearms in most countries until it's too late.

        Having a non-lethal tool to dissuade these mobs from getting out of hand is a better solution than allowing them to kill or being forced to kill them.
      • by zazzel ( 98233 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:18PM (#17753022)
        So I'm trying to imagine *any* military or police uses this kind of weapon on me, the demonstrator. Now, for a second, just ignore my (dis)honorable intentions to protest. What happens when someone uses this kind of weapon on me, probably abusing it the way tasers are already being abused in certain cases? Well, I'll make sure as hell this weapon can't harm me any more (tinfoil, anyone?). And next, I'll probably be in a good mood to use any combination of intelligence, technique and force to make sure the asshole who's been using this kind of weapon on me gets "what he deserves".

        So, now you're no longer restricted to heating dinner using microwaves, but you're making sure I'm becoming the enemy you're so afraid of. Full of hate and dangerous.
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Someone should have told that to those asshats using WP on unarmed civilians.
    • What makes Iraqis the enemy again?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#17750702)
    Sounds just like what we need for our boys and girls over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of dropping a bomb over the evildoers' heads, or not even fire for fear of collateral damage, this weapon would be the solution.

    I know the kneejerk slashdotters will come out of the woodwork against this, but would you rather have dead people or civilians? It's funny how you guys love technology except when the military invents it.
    • Yeah, it's a good idea in principle.

      Except most of the time the US soldiers don't even know who the bad guys are until they strike. It's not like you have the bad guys standing in a crowd of people shouting: 'Ha ha! You can't shoot me because I'm using human shields!'.

      No, the insurgents in Iraq are very much like the ones in Vietnam of old. Just a part of the crowd until they decide to strike.

      • It's not like you have the bad guys standing in a crowd of people shouting: 'Ha ha! You can't shoot me because I'm using human shields!'.

        Actually, that's a quite often used tactic, and a fundamental tactic of guerilla warfare (being able to look like a civilian at will means you get to determine when and where you will fight battles). This can be used against the children who throw rocks at American humvees trying to goad Americans into shooting them. Also, it can help against incidents where teerorists flocked to a Mosque and then callled up a thousand women and children to flock to the Mosque to prevent Israel from bombing the place (th

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Malakusen ( 961638 )
          Future AQ recruiting video, using footage from Iraq:
          Cold-hearted armed and armored U.S. troops in armored vehicles cooking screaming Arab children with a heat ray.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kalirion ( 728907 )
      It all depends on how the device is used. Here's a very plausible scenario: there's a mostly peaceful demonstration, and a few of the demonstrators start throwing rocks. The forces which are there to keep order turn the device on the crowd. Everyone feels like they're burning alive, there's a stampede to get away from the pain, and dozens of people are trampled. Hell, even if there is no stampede, you are basically torturing people most of whom have done nothing wrong. Yes, it's torture even if it lea
    • Wow. way to pidgeon hole people with concerns about this. That almost sounds like a "why do you hate our freedom?" argument or a "you're either with us or against us!"

      actually, I think most people are going to be FOR non-leathal warfare technology, and I cant imagine why people would be against it. Personally I look at that thing and to me it *looks* impractical. a giant laser sitting on a truck like that with 500 yards range seems like a great target for someone with an rpg. But I dont know enough ab

  • by Life2Short ( 593815 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:51AM (#17750710)
    I think if the University of Florida has taught us anything, you have to thoroughly soak your target first.
  • How long after this thing is deployed will we see video's on you tube with soldiers using this thing to make popcorn ?
    And how long after will we see drunk soldiers holding the popcorn whilst it's being made ?
  • What happens when people learn this is bullshit and go "Nice, but you've just got a bullet in you"? People deal with panic attacks and heat rays can't do much more than make you panic you're about to die.

    Secondly, how long until we discover this causes cancer? Microwaving people is obviously really unsafe, so making them feel their about to set alight must be pretty damn shitty on the old body.

    Thirdly, this + metal = ?? If it is real heat it's going to REALLY hurt.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Microwaving people is obviously really unsafe,

      Microwaves are not ionizing like Ultra-violet, X-rays and other higher energy shorter wave-length radiation. If they really did cause cancer, folks are around airports and other radar (Microwave) installations would have a much higher incidence of cancer than the general population.

      • Aren't powerful enough radar dishes known to cause birds drop dead out of the sky?
        • yes. due to heating, not radiation poisoning.

          put a glass of water in the microwave. it boils after a couple minutes. now remember that your body (and the bird's too) is mostly water and the radars are many times more powerful than your oven. also keep in mind that you don't need the water to boil to kill what the water is in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unlike most cases where I would immediately pipe in about the safety of microwave radiation as compared to other, higher power (or ionizing) radiation, in this case the questions of safety are justified I think. The reason that cell phones are safe is because, even though they are a microwave-using device right next to your head, the amount of radiation hitting your body doesn't penetrate the first couple layers of skin, and raises the temperature by less than walking out into the sun. This, on the other
    • Secondly, how long until we discover this causes cancer?

      A very long time I imagine, because unless they're not telling us something I assume the radiation is non-ionizing. No accepted study has proved that non-ionizing raditation causes cancer.
    • Mice, experimented upon, will develop cancer. So this device will probably not be too good to our furry friends, but I doubt that it will cause the same effect in overgrown monkees.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:56AM (#17750772) Homepage Journal
    the military had a great new weapon in the form of a liquid that would foam and solidify a few years back. so an urban crowd is getting uppity. rather than shoot them, spray them. voila: instant immobilization, no worries of permanent damage or death... well that's just the thing. in a real crowd situation, someone's mouth would get sprayed. then it's a tracheotomy in a few minutes or death by suffocation

    so what will happen with the OUCH ray is that someone will get hit in the eyes, and be blinded. or with the black ice, as any hockey player/ fan will tell you, someone will do a perfect backward fall and wind up with a concussion or brain damage

    all i'm saying is that the nirvana of the perfect nonlethal crowd control/ imlpement of war is not very easy to obtain. all you do is trade in one kind of potential for damage/ death for another kind of potential for damage/ death. tragedy is not so easily avoided. we don't live in a world where improbable and deadly accidents never happen, and we don't live in a world where everybody has agreed that violence ion the name of advancing yout agenda isn't the answer (no matter what your ideology, from the right or the left)
  • They've already used that on people. Another "nonlethal" weapon that will
    hideously kill at close range. in+weapon []
    • So which of the links that show up say anything about death? You know, for those of us at work who don't have time to watch an hour of video.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:57AM (#17750784) Journal
    The weapon is called the silent guardian []. It's made by Raytheon and that site has a short video just showing it off with a product sheet.

    The most interesting things from that product sheet:
    Targeting: Stationary firing position with 360-degree coverage
    Integrated sensors with joystick control
    Single-man operation

    System Setup: Automatic target tracking
    Modular architecture
    Secure antenna stabilization platform
    able to operate in 40 mph winds

    Mission Profile: Less than 2-second retargeting capability
    Shoot-and-scoot capability
    Less than 2 seconds to switch from standby mode to armed

    Contractor Support: Complete logistics support package available to include:
    - Return and repair maintenance
    - System training
    - Web-enabled supply support
    - Supports Army two-level maintenance system
    And I personally think the most important aspect of this weapon is that it fills the gap between shout and shoot which is a big thing when you think about it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jimicus ( 737525 )
      Stationary firing position with 360-degree coverage

      Wonderful! So you can shoot yourself without turning the gun around.
    • I agree that "the most important aspect of this weapon is that it fills the gap between shout and shoot which is a big thing when you think about it"; and certainly this sort of non-lethal weapon could help prevent the "mourning war" or vendettas which (I think) you mentioned in an earlier excellent post on a related topic.

      However, I do think one unintended consequence of non-lethal weapons is what we saw with Tasers when that student was expellend from the university library a couple of months ago. In t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:01AM (#17750818)
    I wish the government would follow me around for a few months testing this thing on me, it's friggen cold right now in New England!
  • by rcb1974 ( 654474 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:02AM (#17750828) Homepage
    Couldn't an organized crowd just pull the metal screens off their windows and use them as shields? Last I checked, those work great against microwaves. You could even make clothing made of flexible metal mesh to block the incoming rays.
  • Hmm...lets see. Cover some cardboard with aluminum foil and make a shield or use a metal trash can lid then step behind a building. I really don't think the effects of this thing will last long as soon as the enemy becomes aware of it, and exactly what do to avoid it. Chaos and people scurrying makes cover for return fire. The enemy isn't going to stop fearing lead, but they will stop fearing this thing rather quickly imho.
    • I don't know that it would even be necessary to hide behind anything. I mean, right now the most likely place to deploy this thing is Iraq, and that's mostly a big fricken desert. What does the normal daytime temperature get up to, especially in the urban areas?? Are people even going to *notice* a heat ray??
  • Just wait, a non lethal weapon was developed that won't kill people. Now people will complain that it causes pain. Well, what would you rather have, pain or death?
    • by zyl0x ( 987342 )
      Would you rather be tortured for weeks, only for the people torturing you to kill you regardless of what you tell them, or would you rather they just kill you right away? Believe it or not, some people would much rather have death than an indefinite amount of pain.
    • pain or death?

      I'll have the chicken.

    • Think tasers. Now we have police officers using tasers at the first sign of the suspect being uncooperative. Sometimes they don't even give the suspect a chance to cooperate. This microwave thing is basically a long-range taser that can hit multiple people at once. What do you wanna bet it will be used that way?
  • by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) * on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:07AM (#17750886)
    see Build Your Own HERF Gun []
    HERF Gun: Make it in your basement []

    Supposedly the High Energy Radio Frequency (HERF) burst will disrupt all the electronic components in an engine. My understanding is that the Coast Guard is already using these to stop fleeing motor boats (sorry no link) and the air force is researching a HERF weapon to knock all the electronics in a area USAF Detachment 8 Continues US Research Into EMP-Microwave Weapons []

  • I like the idea of the black-ice spray. Less destructive than spike strips, and with the spray-on reversal agent, more selective. Also, when have people in the middle east seen ice? They wouldn't know how to drive on it, and its not like they're going to send volunteers to Minnesota in the winter to take a defensive driving course.
  • I thought temperature in Iraq was already 130 degrees...

  • Temperatures (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ZOMFF ( 1011277 ) *
    Considering that the average temperature of bath water is ~110F, 130F doesn't seem like it would be too uncomfortable for a soldier. Considering the temperatures most soldiers face (especially those deployed to the desert) I'm sure they are exposed to similar temps by the environment alone + gear. The question I have is will the microwaves react differently to a metal object as opposed to human skin? IE: cause the gun/weapon a soldier is holding to become very hot causing the soldier to drop it, rather
    • Considering that the average temperature of bath water is ~110F,

      Yikes. That's a fairly hot bath (43 degrees celsius, yikes). You probably can't stand this for long, and if you have too many of these baths, you might end up infertile (if male). The latter might not be a concern since this is slashdot, though.
  • ..... taking it's weapons ideas from Sci-Fi. This one comes from War Of The Worlds: []

    If this keeps up, we'll have a "Death Star" before you know it.
  • Torture (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:17AM (#17751014)
    The use of this device would effectively amount to torture. Using it on a crowd of protesters you want removed would be equivalent to going around and Tazering all of them. Passive resistance does not justify the use of torture.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
      We've already lost that argument. See "drive stun" [] and an explicit UCPD policy on torturing suspects into compliance [] in the context of Mostafa Tabatabainejad [] (among others).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The use of this device would effectively amount to torture.

      Watering down the word "torture" accomplishes nothing good. Any device can be used for torture; circumstances matter.

    • The use of this device would effectively amount to torture. Using it on a crowd of protesters you want removed would be equivalent to going around and Tazering all of them. Passive resistance does not justify the use of torture.

      Please stop using strawman agruments. The article said nothing about peaceful protestors. I seriously doubt the military cares about a group of people peacefully singing kumbaya around a campfire, seeing how they have their hands full fighting people with AK-47s and RPGs. Let's s

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lendude ( 620139 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:19AM (#17751046)
    "The goal is to make the targets drop any weapons and flee the scene." Why the f*ck would they drop their weapons and flee the scene? If they can flee the scene, they'd wanna hang onto their weapons wouldn't they? And if they can't flee the scene, unless the beam can cover the whole mass at once, they might be tempted to use their weapons? And if they can't flee the scene, they are pretty much constrained anyway?

    Sounds more like a tool to use on demonstrators who aren't armed, just pesky.

  • They hope to deploy the 'ice' in chase scenarios to slow fleeing vehicles."
    Maybe I'm being obtuse, but how do you deploy the 'ice' in front of a fleeing vehicle if you're chasing it ?

    If you've got someone out in front anyway, then you don't really need the 'ice'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      IT's not uncommon forpolice to try and manipulate the chase.

      If soemone is zipping down the freeway you have a god indicator where to deploy this.
      Another use would be outside of banks, just to watch robbers fall on their ass as the try to fly.
    • Come on, don't ruin a prefectly good defence contract by pointing out the obvious flaws...
  • Anything that heats the skin is also likely to heat the cornea. Microwaves at very low intensity, far lower than can be felt, have been known for 60 years to cause cataracts. It's going to be unlikely that these new waves, which are thousands of times higher than the safe limits for microwaves, will not harm eyeballs.
  • Just remember: You have to moisten the unruly crowd first, otherwise it will stink the place up for days, and some individuals may even catch on fire!
  • The education budget is cut.
    Healthcare costs increase.
    The spreading of democracy costs more and more lives.
    World population is still increasing while people consume more and more.

    Probably we indeed need a lot of these ray-cannons.
  • by Headcase88 ( 828620 ) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:44AM (#17751522) Journal
    Grampa: What the hell is that?
    Frink: Why, it's a death ray my good man, behold. (Frink fires death ray)
    Grampa: Hey, feels warm, kinda nice.
    Frink: Well it's just a prototype, with proper funding I'm confident this little baby could destroy an area the size of New York City.
    Grampa: But I want to help people, not kill 'em!
    Frink: Oh, well to be honest, the ray only has evil applications. You know my wife will be happy, she's hated this whole death ray thing from day one.

    With thanks to The Simpsons Archive []
  • Now where's the fun in that??
  • Spraying ice (or Monkey Snot) on a road won't stop a vehicle. Super Glue will...

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