The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal, counter-personnel directed energy weapon. It uses breakthrough technologies to provide un-precedented, standoff, non-lethal capabilities at ranges beyond effective small arms range.
ADS projects a focused, speed-of-light milli-meter-wave energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation on an adversary's skin and cause that individual to be repelled without injury. The picture on the right depicts the prototype currently in development. ADS will enable U.S. forces to stop, deter and turn back an advancing adversary without applying lethal force. This capability is expected to save countless lives by providing a means to stop individuals without causing injury, before a deadly confrontation develops.
The technology was originally developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and matured under the sponsorship of the Department of Defense's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. Approximately $51 million has been invested over the past eleven years. The technology was developed in response to Department of Defense needs for troops to have options short of deadly force. Non-lethal technologies can be used for protection of defense resources, peacekeeping, humanitarian missions and other situations in which the use of lethal force is undesirable. ADS will provide these capabilities close in as well as at longer standoff ranges.
How It Works
Active Denial Technology uses a transmitter producing energy at a frequency of 95Ghz and an antenna to direct a focused, invisible beam towards a designated subject. Traveling at the speed of light, the energy reaches the subject and penetrates the skin to a depth of less than 1/64 of an inch. Almost instantaneously it produces a heating sensation that within seconds becomes intolerable and forces the subject to flee. The sensation immediately ceases when the individual moves out of the beam or when the system operator turns it off.
Despite this sensation, the beam does not cause injury because of the shallow penetration depth of energy at this wavelength and the low energy levels used. It exploits the body's natural defense mechanism that induces pain as a warning to help protect it from injury.
Human Effects Testing
A large portion of the investment, about $9 million, has been devoted to characterizing the effects of this technology on the human body. This is to ensure the technology produces the desired response and is militarily effective, while at the same time providing a large margin of safety against injury and long-term effects. Animals and humans are being used in the test program, which is being conducted in strict compliance with the procedures, laws and regulations governing animal and human experimentation. The tests are reviewed and approved by a formal Institutional Review Board with oversight from the Air Force Surgeon General's Office. An independent panel of medical experts from outside the government also periodically reviews and advises on the planning aspects and results of the research and test activities. Their 2002 review of the program concluded there is low probability of serious injury from exposure to the ADS beam. Additionally, the panel concludes that the probability of thermal eye injury is low and the probability of long-term health effects such as cancer is extremely low.
The Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate at Brooks City Base, Texas, conducted several years of successful and safe laboratory testing with small spot sizes. In 2000, testing began at Kirtland Air Force Base, south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, using the new, full-scale technology hardware demonstration system shown at right. It enabled larger areas of a volunteer test subject's body to be exposed to the energy beam and pro-vided for more realistic, military field conditions.
The Active Denial technology hardware demonstration system shown above represents a rudimentary first integration of the key technology elements such as the millimeter-wave source, cooling system, and planar array antenna, among others. In 2001, it successfully demonstrated the hardware technology necessary to achieve the desired effect at full weapon power and distance, and set the stage for the next evolution of the system.
This next step is on-going and involves the integration and packaging of all the system's components into a mobile, nearly militarized system. The configuration chosen is the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, commonly referred to as a Humvee. This activity is being conducted under an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, which is the process used by the Department of Defense to rapidly move mature technologies into the hands of the warfighter for military evaluation.
Under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, the Air Force Research Laboratory will produce a Humvee-mounted prototype and provide it to operational forces from all the services in late 2004. The services will first develop concepts for employing the system and then evaluate its utility in representative military environments and scenarios. Depending on the results of this evaluation, which is projected to be completed at the end of 2005, a decision will be made to produce and operationally deploy the system. Since this is the first time this leading edge technology will be evaluated for military utility, it is possible that some of the services will find they need considerably different system configurations of the ADS which would be tailored for specific missions and operating environments, such as on-board a ship or on an aircraft. Planning for an airborne system prototype has already begun under a separate effort.
The employment of Active Denial Technology has successfully undergone a preliminary weapons legal review. A interim, comprehensive legal review, including treaty compliance, is in process and is projected to be completed this year.
The ADS Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program is being sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts, the Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate and U.S. Joint Forces Command.
The Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is the technical manager and responsible for the ADS prototype development. The Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate at Brooks City Base manages the human effects characterization research and test program.
Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, is the operational manager and is leading the military services in developing the concepts of operation and managing the formal military utility assessment.
The Air Force's Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is the transition manager, charged with leading the planning activities necessary to transition the system into the formal Department of Defense acquisition process, should the decision be made to equip U.S. forces with ADS.
The Raytheon Company is the lead integrator of the prototype.