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Raytheon beam controls mobs

Enemy troops, crowds disabled, but it's temporary

Kathleen Perkins and Allan Mense check out a display on Raytheon's Directed Energy Weapons program at the Photon Forum 2004, an optics conference that was held Tuesday and Wednesday at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems is about to deliver a nonlethal weapon system to the U.S. military that can disable enemy soldiers or hostile crowds with a painful beam of electromagnetic energy, a company official said Wednesday at an optics forum.

Raytheon also is on track to demonstrate an initial version of a high-energy laser weapon by year's end, said Wade Smith, deputy director of Raytheon's Directed Energy Weapons program.

After more than three years in development, Raytheon will meet a May deadline to deliver its "active denial technology" to the Air Force Research Laboratory for testing, Smith said at the inaugural Photon Forum 2004, an optics conference held Tuesday and Wednesday at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

The Air Force lab's Directed Energy Directorate handles the Department of Defense's laser and other directed-energy technologies.

The system, which will be mounted on a military vehicle, inflicts no permanent damage on humans, but temporarily inflicts a disabling, burning pain over the whole body by triggering heat receptors in the skin.

"This is an effect that literally gets under your skin," said Smith, who has voluntarily felt the "intolerable pain" of the beam during testing.

"I can assure you, once you come in contact with the beam, you will be inclined to stop whatever you are doing," he said.

The active-denial system uses so-called "millimeter waves" of electromagnetic energy to penetrate about one-64th of an inch into the skin.

The nonlethal system could be used to control crowds or to disable enemy soldiers, Smith said.

Raytheon's system will likely be tested by the military through midsummer at a test range in China Lake, Calif., Smith said.

Another so-called "directed energy weapon" system being developed by Raytheon in Tucson is the demonstration of a high-energy, solid-state laser that could be used to shoot down enemy planes and missiles or attack ground targets.

The highest-powered lasers currently being used are large systems that amplify light using chemical reactions. The military is seeking to develop equally powerful, solid-state, electrical lasers small enough to be mounted on planes, ships and ground vehicles.

Raytheon is in the final phase of a contract awarded in late 2002 by the Air Force Research Laboratory to produce a 25-kilowatt solid-state laser to demonstrate the weapon concept, and the company is on schedule to deliver the laser by year's end, Smith said.

Ultimately, the military wants to produce weapons-grade solid-state lasers rated at 100 kilowatts or more.

But because of challenges in developing small power sources and accurately controlling such beams, deployment of such solid-state laser weapon systems in the field is likely 10 to 15 years away, Smith said.

Raytheon has relied on local optics companies as subcontractors for the directed-energy programs and other systems, he said. In 2003, Raytheon awarded more than $68 million in contracts to Arizona firms, with more than half of that going to Tucson-area companies, he said.

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Related: Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System (V-MADS)

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