The arsenal of non-lethal weapons is growing, thanks to research being conducted by the military and police forces. Some might be deployed as early as this year. Keep reading to find out what criminals and rioters might have to face in the months to come.
Some have been employed for decades, others are just being tested, and still others have not made it out of the lab yet. For many, the details of their operation are secret enough that activists are growing concerned. At least one of them might break a UN convention. They are non-lethal weapons, and police and the military in the United States believe they might help the men and women on the line get their jobs done more safely and effectively, with less loss of life on both sides.
The most recent of these weapons to reach the press boasts an acronym that any Star Trek fan would love: a PHaSR. This particular device bears little resemblance to the cell-phone-sized props used by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which supposedly emitted a beam of light that rendered opponents unconscious – or sometimes dead, depending on the setting. This PHaSR – short for Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response -- also emits light, and is operated by one person, but there the resemblance ends.
Judging from the picture provided by the Air Force, the PHaSR is about three feet long and resembles a large, flat, plastic, somewhat pregnant-looking handgun. The laser emitted from its muzzle is designed to render opponents temporarily blind, not unconscious. It is described by the military as the “first man-portable, non-lethal deterrent weapon intended for protecting troops and controlling hostile crowds.” It is being developed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The military provided precious few details as to how the weapon works. It temporarily “dazzles” individuals with its two-wavelength laser system. While no explanation was provided as to why a two-wavelength system is used, it might be intended to counter goggles capable of filtering out certain wavelengths of laser light. A future prototype, planned for early in 2006, will feature an “eye-safe laser range finder,” which some observers speculate might assist with adjusting the laser’s power depending on the distance to the target. Not too surprisingly, the Department of Defense would not even indicate the weapon’s effective range.
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