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Have you ever wanted to hit a protester with a lightning bolt?


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Sweeping stun guns to target crowds

19:00 16 June 04

Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

Weapons that can incapacitate crowds of people by sweeping a lightning-like beam of electricity across them are being readied for sale to military and police forces in the US and Europe.

At present, commercial stun guns target one person at a time, and work only at close quarters. The new breed of non-lethal weapons can be used on many people at once and operate over far greater distances.

But human rights groups are appalled by the fact that no independent safety tests have been carried out, and by their potential for indiscriminate use.

The weapons are designed to address the perceived shortcomings of the Taser, the electric-shock gun already used by 4000 police departments in the US and undergoing trials with some police forces in the UK.

It hits the victim with two darts that trail current-carrying wires, which limit its range to a maximum of seven metres (see graphic). As a single shot, short-range weapon, the Taser is of little use in crowd control. And Tasers have no effect on vehicles.

Ionised gas

These limitations are beginning to be overcome. Engineers working for the US Department of Defense's research division, DARPA, and defence companies in Europe have been working out how to create an electrically conductive path between a gun and a target without using wires.

A weapon under development by Rheinmetall, based in Dorf, Germany, creates a conducting channel by using a small explosive charge to squirt a stream of tiny conductive fibres through the air at the victim (New Scientist print edition, 24 May 2003).

Meanwhile, Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems (XADS), based in Anderson, Indiana, will be one of the first companies to market another type of wireless weapon. Instead of using fibres, the $9000 Close Quarters Shock Rifle projects an ionised gas, or plasma, towards the target, producing a conducting channel. It will also interfere with electronic ignition systems and stop vehicles.

"We will be able to fire a stream of electricity like water out of a hose at one or many targets in a single sweep," claims XADS president Peter Bitar.

Solid-state lasers

The gun has been designed for the US Marine Corps to use for crowd control and security purposes and is due out in 2005. It is based on early, unwieldy technology and has a range of only three metres, but an operator can debilitate multiple targets by sweeping it across them for "as long as there is an input power source," says Bitar.

XADS is also planning a more advanced weapon which it hopes will have a range of 100 metres or more. Instead of firing ionised gas, it will probably use a powerful laser to ionise the air itself. The idea has been around for decades, says LaVerne Schlie, a laser expert at the US Air Force Research Lab in Kirtland, New Mexico. It has only become practical with advances in high-power solid-state lasers.

"Before, it took a laser about the size of two trucks," says Schlie. "Now we can do it with something that fits on a tabletop."

The laser pulse must be very intense, but can be brief. So the makers of the weapons plan to use a UV laser to fire a 5-joule pulse lasting just 0.4 picoseconds - equating to a momentary power of more than 10 million megawatts.

This intense pulse - which is said not to harm the eyes - ionises the air, producing long, thread-like filaments of glowing plasma that can be sustained by repeating the pulse every few milliseconds. This plasma channel is then used to deliver a shock to the victims similar to a Taser's 50,000-volt, 26-watt shock.

Instrument of torture

HSV Technologies of San Diego, California is also working on stun and vehicle-stopping shock weapons with ranges of over 100 metres. And another company, Ionatron of Tuscon, Arizona, is due to supply a prototype wireless vehicle-mounted weapon to the US Department of Defense by the end of 2004.

But the advent of wireless stun weapons has horrified human rights groups. Robin Coupland of the Red Cross says they risk becoming a new instrument of torture. And Brian Wood of Amnesty International says the long-range stun guns could "inflict pain and other suffering on innocent bystanders".

And there are safety concerns. Of the 30,000 times US police officers have fired Tasers, in 40 instances people stunned by them later died. The deaths have been attributed to factors such as overdoses of drugs and alcohol, or fighting with officers, rather than the electric shock.

In a statement, Taser International chief Rick Smith said: "In every single case the medical examiner has attributed the direct cause of death to causes other than the Taser." Amnesty is not convinced, however, and wants an independent study of the effects of all existing and emerging electric-shock weapons.

David Hambling

Source = <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996014"> New Scientist </a>

OK so it's not lightning but it's close enough for me.


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Sounds pretty cool. They can test it at soccer matches in the old country.

I got to do some crowd control once with the fire dept. A bar fight after a parade spilled over into the streets. About 50 or 60 people going at it. Pretty cool to pick a person up off the ground with a streem of water, and shoot them about 20 feet away. About the most fun you can have in under two minutes, as 500 gal of water doesn't last long.


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I dont know if anyone has seen this form but it sounds pretty painful.




The Pentagon is developing a new secret weapon that sounds like something from a "Star Trek" episode. It would stop people by directing a beam of microwave energy at them, causing pain but no bodily harm. Pentagon officials say the weapon could be used to control unruly crowds or stop intruders. NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.

TOM GJELTEN reporting:

For years, the US military has been looking for a good, non-lethal weapon, something that could be used on demonstrators or rioters, for example, without hurting them. Some armies have tried rubber bullets. For a while the US military considered shooting sticky foam at people but then gave up after realizing that getting the foam in your lungs would be damaging. With US troops increasingly being used in peacekeeping or humanitarian aid missions, the search for a reliable crowd control instrument has become all the more urgent. Marine Corps Colonel George Fenton recalls a time he could have used something like that: Somalia, 1993.

Colonel GEORGE FENTON (Marines): We had a fire team at a checkpoint. A crowd of 15 turned into a crowd of 5,000 in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes--two opposing forces, warlord forces back in that time frame. It looks like things were going to go nasty. Corporal on the phone, 'What do you want me to do?'

GJELTEN: Colonel Fenton is now the director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. He was at the Pentagon yesterday to demonstrate the latest non-lethal idea: focusing a beam of millimeter wave energy on someone for a few seconds, just long enough to make them feel an intense burning sensation, even found a few reporters willing to be guinea pigs.

Col. FENTON: You touch this device, you felt the heat sensation. If you walked into a beam of energy like that, would you be inclined to move, particularly if that was on your body? Absolutely. And that's the strength of this application. We can do it effectively without having to shoot a single round.

GJELTEN: The idea would be to mount this weapon on a military vehicle such as a Humvee and point it at individuals or groups of people who, for some reason, maybe threatening US troops or getting in the way of a mission. Zap them briefly with this weapon and the people move fast.

Col. FENTON: There's nothing inhumane about it. It's safe. It's completely safe. You walk out of the beam and the sensation dissipates almost immediately. There is no long-term effect with this, none, zero, zip.

GJELTEN: The energy beam would produce heat in the targeted person the same way a microwave oven heats up food, by agitating water molecules. But microwave oven rays are longer and at a much lower frequency so they penetrate the food being cooked, while the beams from this new weapon theoretically affect only the skin's surface to a depth of 1/64th of an inch. Still, if the beam is powered up enough and remains focused on someone long enough, it could burn the skin. The scientists who developed the weapon say people instinctively move out of the beam before suffering any damage. Other weapon experts aren't so sure. John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org is impressed but skeptical.

Mr. JOHN PIKE (GlobalSecurity.org): Non-lethal weapons, crowd-control weapons are something that the United States military is very interested in for peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief operations and this sounds potentially like a very promising solution. The question, however, is whether this non-lethal weapon will get around a lot of the problems that other non-lethal weapons have had, namely how do you make them effective without rendering them lethal the same way any other normal military weapons are.

GJELTEN: The new technology has not yet been field tested and is not close to being cleared for production. US officials say they want to be sure the weapon would be legal before giving it a final green light. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, the Pentagon.


Copyright 2001 National Public Radio

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The Pepperball Launcher utilizes "paintball gun" technology. It delivers a small plastic ball (round), that breaks on contact, and disperses "pepper dust" that floats in the suspects immediate area. The impact hurts like hell, and I would know. When we go through training we have to get struck by it. (We don't say shot, it's not a gun) The impacts leave large welts, and sometimes break the skin depending on how much air pressure is in the bottle when fired. The dust sucks, it's the same as being sprayed with Pepper Spray. These launchers were deployed in the Seattle riots a few years ago, and were highly effective. I'd rather use this against somebody, then have to shoot them with a real gun.

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I have never wanted to harm any protestors. People can make an ass out of themselves however they want as long as they don’t disrupt my life. If things get violent or start to disrupt transportation I say light em up.

About two years ago I was in San Fran presenting at a conference and our cab from the airport ended up in the middle of a huge protest against some "atrocity" that Bush had committed. I don't remember what it was all about. We had to sit there for about 20 minutes as people (who badly needed a shower) sat down in front of our cab. I kind of enjoyed it, I didn't have anywhere to be and it was fun to watch the freaks. Our cab driver was going nuts though, I guess he was loosing a lot of money. Eventually he told the protestors that he was taking the cab out of park and that the car was about to start rolling forward. They parted like the red sea. It wasn’t exactly a Tienamine (sp?) Square show of courage. I guess getting run over would have killed their buzz.

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Develop all the weapons you want.

You didn't stop me when I marched against nuclear proliferation when I was 11. I spoke to a crowd of thousands at The Rotunda as a kid

You didn't stop me at the WTO protests, even though I was maced in the face twice: The WTO will never hold a meeting in a major American city again ... why? Because they, like you, must hide behind weaponry and organized force in an attempt to influence popular will ...

But the numbers are against you. :)

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Originally posted by RiggoDrill

Develop all the weapons you want.

You didn't stop me when I marched against nuclear proliferation when I was 11. I spoke to a crowd of thousands at The Rotunda as a kid

You didn't stop me at the WTO protests, even though I was maced in the face twice: The WTO will never hold a meeting in a major American city again ... why? Because they, like you, must hide behind weaponry and organized force in an attempt to influence popular will ...

But the numbers are against you. :)

I'm not sure if that was meant for me, but if you read any of my other posts you'd know I don't want to stop anyone from marching around under whatever banner they so choose. I just thought this weapon was cool.

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