Pain Ray: Keep Waiting


On Monday night, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate told guys like David Hambling and me that we were welcome to come check out its microwave-ish pain ray -- provided we could make it to the middle of Georgia on 36 hours' notice. It wasn't exactly the most serious offer, for fellows in London and in L.A. And it's one of several reasons why I decided not to blog about the demonstration, when word about it hit the wires yesterday.But New Scientist did pick up on one interesting tidbit: Theodore Barna, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts told Reuters that "We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010." (Here's a promo vid for the system.)Three years from now, hunh? Well, we'll see. For years and years, there have been promises that the pain ray (or "Active Denial System" if you prefer) was just about to be rolled out to the field. Thirteen months ago, for example, the 18th Military Police Brigade requested ADS "to help 'suppress' insurgent attacks and quell prison uprisings." The head of the Army's Rapid Equipping Force said, after nearly 10,000 trial shots, the system was good to go. $30 million was allocated to outfitting three fighting vehicles with pain rays.But the military still can't shake fears about ADS, as Hambling so ably noted last month. As Hambling put it, "the big problem is not with the technology, which seems to work fine. The problem is getting people to accept it. Everyone is still worried the millimeter-wave beam is going to give them cancer, melt their eyeballs or make them sterile."Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne didn't help matters much when he suggested the pain ray should be zapping crowds here in the U.S. before it blasted any Iraqis.Will Americans really be any more comfortable with that, a few years from now?

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