An invisible heat-beam weapon developed in secrecy by the military is set for use in a U.S. jail.
Law enforcement officials recently revealed plans to use the nonlethal device at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Pitchess Detention Center, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The weapon, which shoots an invisible beam of energy, would be used in the prisoners' dormitory to stop an assault or break up a fight.
Called the Assault Intervention Device, it uses millimeter waves to heat the top layer of skin, causing an intense burning sensation that forces the person being targeted to move away immediately.
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"I equate it to opening an oven door and feeling that blast of hot air, except instead of being all over me, it's more focused," said Bob Osborne, commander of the Sheriff's Department's Technology Exploration Program, according to the Daily News.
The weapon being installed in the jail is a smaller version of a technology originally developed by the military for use on the battlefield. The military's weapon, called the Active Denial System, can be put on a Humvee or truck, and researchers are also working on a aircraft-mounted version.
Raytheon, which makes the Assault Intervention Device, markets several versions of the weapon on its website.
The smaller version of the weapon being installed in the jail creates pain on a single part of the body, rather than all-over heat like the military version. A local news video showing the device being tested features a laughing test subject clutching a single part of the body where he has been hit, and then moving out of the way.
The device's use at the Pitchess Detention Center is part of a six-month evaluation being conducted by the National Institute of Justice to look at possible widespread use of the technology in jails. If that happens, then it will place law enforcement agencies well ahead of the military.
Despite spending years and tens of millions of dollars to develop the nonlethal technology, the military has not yet deployed the Active Denial System, in large part because of concerns of a public relations backlash against using a "microwave weapon." Ironically, a former Air Force secretary even suggested that the weapon should first be used in the United States before being deployed abroad.
The Pentagon this year did send a truck-mounted version of the weapon to Afghanistan for testing, but it was sent home without ever being used.