ESC to lead joint effort on Active Denial System acquisition
By Monica D. Morales, ESC Public Affairs
/ Published February 15, 2007
Feb. 9, 2007 --
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (Feb. 9, 2007) - Thanks in part to efforts by the 642nd Electronic Systems Squadron, war fighters will soon be offered a new combat option that could mean the difference between shouting at a potential adversary or shooting him - decision-making determined by using a non-lethal beam weapon that can engage and repel potential terrorists from five to beyond 500 meters.
The squadron's participation as the transition manager for the Active Denial System-Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration sets the stage for continued efforts expected in 2010. That's when ESC will become the joint service acquisition manager for the system.
Under direction of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the 642 ELSS collaborated with sister services, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Combat Command. This resulted in military user assessments and extended user evaluations proving the worth of this transformational new weapon system.
"In many situations today, the war fighter will face adversaries mixed in with non-combatant civilians," said Col. Ken Hasegawa, 642 ELSS commander. "Given the choice of engaging that enemy with an M-16 or with ADS, the ADS will clearly be a better option for that war fighter and politically for the United States."
The Active Denial System is a counter-personnel, non-lethal, directed energy weapon. It works by using an antenna to direct a focused beam of millimeter waves at a designated target. The energy strikes the subject at a skin depth of 1/64th of an inch - the equivalent thickness of three sheets of paper - and produces an intolerable heating sensation. This physical reaction yields enough force to repel the subject.
"We have found conclusively that a robust repel against the adversary occurs every single time," said Dean Adler, ADS ACTD transition manager.
The intolerable heating sensation disappears immediately once the individual moves out of the beam or when the operator turns off the system.
Physiologically, this heat is caused by water molecules within the skin that when stimulated by the beam, vibrate and result in a heating sensation. This sensation on the skin forces the human repel reaction, without causing injury to the individual.
"When one experiences this heat, it's overwhelming," Mr. Adler said. "You react well within your own decision-processing loop, and the result is that you find yourself out of the beam before you know what's happened."
Additionally, the system has undergone approximately $10 million worth of bio-effects research to conclusively prove the weapon's effects are reversible and non-injurious.
"The software is kept at such a level that you cannot exceed the exposure levels that would incur damage to skin or eyes," Colonel Hasegawa said.
Developing an operational system brings the technology's promise to life and enables the system to actually help the war fighter.
AFRL's Directed Energy Directorate developed a technology demonstrator used in three joint service military utility assessments. The most recent major event was the system rollout and national news media event held at Moody AFB, Ga., on Jan. 24.
In addition to serving as the ACTD Transition Manager since 2002, ESC's contributions to the ADS program come in the form of developing a mass producible ADS system -- called System 2 -- that can be strapped to a flatbed truck or emplaced for fixed-site operations. This is a departure from System 1, which was integrated onto a hybrid-electric Humvee with design trades that limited the number of shots, the operating temperatures, and mobility of this prototype system.
"ADS System 2 has gotten around all those things, and is essentially only limited by the frequency of how often you have to re-fuel, and the speed it takes to re-charge batteries," Colonel Hasegawa said.
Additionally, the Air Force filled a range capability gap that existed between 35 meters to well beyond small arms range.
"By expanding the non-lethal weapon family's range of stand off, what that does is buy more time for field commanders to make good decisions about an emerging situation," Mr. Adler said. "It provides them an option beyond merely verbally challenging a threat with a bullhorn or firing lethal bullets."
He said that using ADS as a weapon system also brings with it the benefit of saving lives -- both of our own troops and those of adversaries.
"Why will it save so many lives? Because we can diffuse so many more situations without resorting to lethal fires," he said.
Colonel Hasegawa cited the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole as a scenario that may have yielded a different outcome with the presence of a system like ADS. An approaching small craft could be engaged by an ADS beam, allowing the sailors to determine if the personnel on-board had hostile intent.
"Knowing hostile intent at extended range would allow the defense to take lethal measures to stop any attacks on our ships, bases and facilities," he said.
The colonel said that the ADS system reflects the changing face of warfare, and the emerging needs of today's war fighter.
"This gives the war fighter a non-lethal option as opposed to having only lethal options," Colonel Hasegawa said. "This transformational technology is adding a new dimension to the war fighters' toolbox, allowing them to better handle current situations and determine ways to better handle future ones."
CONTACT: Ms. Monica D. Morales, (781) 377-8543, Monica.Morales@hanscom.af.mil