New ray gun turns up the heat

The Associated Press
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Airmen pretending to be rioters scatter after being zapped by a new military ray gun during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Wednesday. The millimeter beam from the Active Denial System makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire. Officials say the weapon could be a non-lethal way to increase the security of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and with its 500 meter range it is far superior to current non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets. (AP Photo/Elliott Minor)
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.— The military calls its new weapon an “active denial system,” but that is an understatement. It is a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless — a nonlethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons, the military officials said.

The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, the officials said.

During the first demonstration of the weapon for the news media on Wednesday, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and airmen and reporters who volunteered to be shot.

The device’s two-member crew found their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from more than 500 yards away, nearly 17 times the range of existing nonlethal weapons, like rubber bullets.

People who were hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of 130-degree heat throughout the body. “This is one of the key technologies for the future,” said Col. Kirk Hymes of the Marines, director of the nonlethal weapons program at Quantico, Va., which helped develop the new weapon. The two devices currently being evaluated were built by the military contractor Raytheon.


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