US Bioelectromagnetic Weapons Research

Could new weapons stun or paralyze with a beam of radio energy? I have discussed proposals for bioelectromagnetic wepaonry in DefenceTech before, here and here, but for the first time details are emerging of Air Force-sponsored work in this field.stun2.jpgI have a piece in ther TechWatch section of this months Popular Mechanics magazine exploring a new nonlethal program. In addition to the well-known Active Denial System (ADS) -- which amounts to a mobile microwave oven -- basic research has started on something potentially far more effective and with much wider implications.This report, entitled "Interdisciplinary research project to explore the potential for developing non- lethal weapons based on radiofrequency/microwave bioeffects" -- states their goal:

Our research is to lay the foundation for developing non-lethal stunning/immobilizing weaponry based on radiofrequency (RF)/microwave(MW) radiation by identifying RF/MW parameters potentially capable of selectively altering exocytosis, the process underlying neurotransmitter release and hence nervous system functioning.
The ADS works purely by heating skin a simple thermal effect. According to the Air Force, in health terms it's exactly the same effect you'd get from heating with radiator or hot water or standing by a fire, and it is this heating that produces the 'repel' effect on its targets. As far as we know, the ADS does not have any physical effects other than straightforward thermal ones. But the new project is concentrating on the non-thermal effects created by longer-wavelength radiation, looking at how microwaves can affect the nerous system.This area has already seen a lot of debate. Mobile phones and their transmitter towers use microwaves, and it is hotly contested whether the microwave radiation has any effect on the human body other than simple heating.The researchers at the University of Nevada have concluded that non-thermal effects of RF do exist and may be harnessed. In an abstract here (on page 317)a study of Non-Thermal effects of RF Radiation on Exocytosis - states The effects of RF exposure on catecholamine release that have been observed to date cannot be explained by an increase in temperature.And theres more. Other work by the same team, is described here
It will also support a DEPSCoR- funded program that extends those studies to include microwave frequencies and to explore the effect of pulsed and CW RE/microwave exposure on skeletal muscle contractility
The suggestion is that a correctly tuned beam of microwaves (possibly pulsed or modulated) would be able to interefere with skeletal muscles. This might ultimately give a means of producing the same sort of non-lethal effects as a Taser - but potentially from much greater range and over a wide area.So far, the work has been entirely on in vitro cell samples in the laboratory, and only modest alterations in cell function have been produced. This is a very long way from being able to actually influence a living creature. Any suggestion that this sort of weapon has already been fielded by the US should be treated with skepticism.The researchers are keen to point out that there could be a variety of non-military applications too, such as new types of therapeutic tool for non-invasively treating conditions like chronic pain.Everything is in very early stages in the US program. But, as I mentioned a while back, the Russians have been looking at this technology for years. Dr. Vitaly N. Makukhin of the Trymas Center in Moscow has published papers on "Electronic equipment for complex influence on biological objects" which he claims can produce effects including disorder of the autonomic nervous system. Few people have taken him seriously in the West before. Now that the same sort of effects are being confirmed in US labs, perhaps we will start taking more of an interest in what this type of weapon may be able to do.Neil Davison of the Center for Conflict Resolution has already questioned "whether it is in any way acceptable to develop bioelectromagnetic weapons that could have an incapacitating and suppressing effect on people by manipulating their nervous system or their muscles"As with Tasers and the ADS, the ethical issues around this one are liable to become the focus for some very lively debate.-- David Hambling
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