US Military May Set PHaSRs to StunBy Michelle
November 13, 2005 - 6:08 PM
The US military has unveiled a non-lethal laser rifle called a PHaSR (Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response) designed to temporarily blind enemy personnel without causing them permanent harm, though the device requires additional testing to ensure compliance with the 1995 United Nations Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.
New Scientist reports that two prototypes will be tested at military bases in Texas and Virginia. The Department of Defense has proposed use of the weapon for situations like temporarily overwhelming a suspect who drives through a roadblock, stating that the aim is to "dazzle" rather than blind an enemy.
This weapon uses low-intensity lasers, though even those can cause permanent eye damage at close range. The PHaSR may use an "eye-safe range finder" to adjust the laser's power as it gets closer to an automatically detected target.
The Department of Defense's Stars and Stripes acknowledges that Star Trek influenced the naming of the PHaSR, noting that it might be used in similar situation as Captain Kirk's phaser set on stun.
"[Gene] Roddenberry's vision of the future has caught up with us," noted Air Force Capt. Thomas Wegner, the program manager for the project at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, where the 21-pound weapon was developed.
The PHaSR "was specifically named as an homage to Star Trek," explained Wegner, a self-described Trekkie. He explained, however, that while an Enterprise phaser could be used to vaporize people, the Air Force version "is just a light beam", a non-lethal weapon.