US Military Working on 'Phaser'-Type Technology

By Michelle
July 11, 2005 - 8:42 PM

The U.S. military is working on a phaser-type weapon described by several sources as "Star Trek-style ray guns" to keep security threats from penetrating the Department of Energy's nuclear sites, but the weapons, which will not be in use till 2008, are already being criticised as inadequate and unnecessary.

Space Daily reports that the 103 civilian nuclear plants in the United States could be used to harmlessly stun intruders at Department of Energy installations. "The DoE's Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance together with the Department of Defense, is 'exploring the potential' of directed-energy weapons based on millimeter-wave rays," noted a report on concerns that the power plants are not sufficiently protected from the threat of a terrorist attack.

Energy weapons like those currently being developed at Sandia National Laboratories are called Active Denial Technology (ADT) and use 95 ghz millimeter-wave directed energy. They cause intolerable pain to human skin and would allow guards in power plants and other facilities to fire at assailants without concerns about stray bullets damaging machinery critical to the operation of the stations. Sandia conducted tests in 2004 at a nuclear facility using tactical simulation software modeling. "Recently there has been significant progress with this project," said Sandia investigator Willy Morse.

Yahoo! noted that directed energy pulses "can be throttled up or down depending on the situation, much like the phasers on 'Star Trek' could be set to kill or merely stun." The web site suggested that soldiers in Iraq have encountered urban situations where the nonlethal capabilities of directed energy would be extremely useful. James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation suggested that the military and Congress had not spent enough money investigating the technology, lamenting, "The tragedy is that I think it's exactly the right time for this."

"When you're dealing with people whose full intent is to die, you can't give people a choice of whether to comply," added Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Program engineer George Gibbs. He said the weapons offered a way to fire at assailants without killing them. Because the beams move at the speed of light, an adversary could not duck for cover as with traditional bullets.

Yahoo cites military investigators as saying that the effects end the moment a person is out of the beam and no lasting damage is done below a certain duration. "The strike can be made to feel as gentle as 'broom bristles' or cranked up to deliver a paralyzing jolt that 'takes a few minutes to wear off.'"

The Space Daily report was based in part on an article at

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