Boston Business Journal – December 1, 2004
Government defense giant Raytheon Co. has developed the first nonlethal weapon that fires a heat beam to repel enemies and reduces the chance of innocent civilians being shot, a Pentagon official said.
Raytheon, the world's largest missile maker, delivered a prototype to the U.S. military last month. The product is expected to be evaluated from February through June to determine whether to equip U.S. forces with it, Colonel David Karcher, director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, told Bloomberg Business News.
With U.S. casualties in Iraq rising, expectations are growing that Raytheon's weapon, called the Active Denial System, could be sent to Iraq in the next year, according to Charles "Sid'' Heal, commander of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. A former Marine, Heal headed nonlethal-weapons training for the U.S. military in Somalia in 1995 and advised Raytheon on the beam's development.
"It's there, it's ready,'' said Heal, who has felt the weapon's beam and compares it to having a hot iron placed on the skin. "It will likely be in Iraq in the next 12 months. They are very, very close.''
The weapon, mounted on a Humvee vehicle, projects a "focused, speed-of-light millimeter wave energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation,'' according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet. The energy penetrates less than 1/64 of an inch into the skin and the sensation ceases when the target moves out of the beam.
The weapon could be used for crowd control and is effective beyond the range of bullets fired by small arms, Karcher said. The effective range of an AK-47 assault rifle is as far as 273 yards, while an M16A2 rifle has a range of 400 meters.
The primary benefit would be protecting U.S. troops, Heal said. The weapon would also limit deaths of noncombatants, he said.
"This forces your adversary to declare intentions,'' Heal said. "U.S. forces get killed because they are reluctant to shoot. It happens in Iraq every day."
"This is where the future is going,'' Raytheon Chief Executive William Swanson, 55, said at a conference in Tucson, Ariz., where he introduced the weapon to investors Wednesday. "This is the ability to protect our troops, and we're talking about the speed of light.''
Raytheon is two years into a four-year, $40 million development contract, Karcher said. How soon the weapon is deployed will depend on the military's interest, and while the technology may be ready, troops must also be trained on it and engagement rules must be decided by a four-star general, he said.
Heal said the military version would cost about $1 million, and the U.S. military could require many.
Karcher said the first prototype cost about $10 million.
Heal told Bloomberg Business News that Raytheon could expand the market by selling a smaller version to law-enforcement agencies. The company is working on a smaller, tripod-mounted version for police forces, and the price would have to come down to a few hundred thousand dollars each to be affordable, he said.
Last updated 05/12/2004