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[] SDUT 09.12.02: Military Continues Research Into Use Of Nonlethal Weaponry,

San Diego Union-Tribune
December 9, 2002

Military Continues Research Into Use Of Nonlethal Weaponry

By Otto Kreisher, Copley News Service

WASHINGTON During a search for illegal weapons, U.S. troops on peacekeeping 
duties in Kosovo encountered a large and hostile crowd. When the mob began 
throwing rocks that injured some soldiers, the troops were forced to employ 
their weapons in self-defense.

But instead of a deadly fusillade from their rifles, the troops used 
nonlethal devices that dispersed the crowd without serious injuries and 
allowed the mission to proceed.

That episode, Marine Col. David Karcher said, illustrates why there is a 
growing need for nonlethal weapons in the military's arsenal.

"They provide a commander more choices, something between a bullhorn and a 
bullet," said Karcher, director of a small multiservice organization that 
develops nonlethal technology for military use.

With a growing number of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions and the 
greater prospects for operations in urban areas, where fighters mingle with 
noncombatants, "the need is becoming clearer and clearer," said Karcher, 
head of the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate at Quantico, Va., Marine 
Corps Base.

The equipment the organization tests ranges from low-tech devices such as 
shotguns firing beanbags to exotic directed-energy gadgets that cause a 
burning sensation.

While acknowledging that such tools may be preferable to conventional 
military weapons in many cases, some human rights activists worry that the 
devices may be more harmful than the "nonlethal" label suggests or may be 
used by the military in domestic situations.

"Nonlethal is a misnomer," said Kerry Boyd of the Arms Control Association, 
who noted that the military prefers the term "less-than-lethal."

Even so, "in my view, there are some positives. There are some situations 
in which it would be nice for the military or the police to have 
less-than-lethal weapons," Boyd said.

"But I have concerns, particularly when you get to the issues of 
calmatives," she said, referring to the type of chemical the Russians used 
to end a hostage situation in a Moscow theater.

More than 100 hostages died of the effects of the supposedly nonlethal gas.

Karcher said his organization is not conducting any research on such 
agents. But Boyd said there were experiments in the past and noted that the 
National Research Council mentioned calmatives in a Nov. 4 report that 
urged accelerated efforts on nonlethal weapons.

Dan Koslofsky, an aide at the Center for Arms Control and 
Non-Proliferation, viewed nonlethal weapons "more with optimism than 
concern. Their focus is for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions," which 
the arms-control community support, he said.

"The real concern among the civil libertarian community is that they would 
be used in domestic situations," Koslofsky added.

Although the nonlethal directorate's focus has been on "operations other 
than war," such as peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, its fact sheet 
notes the weapons "are useful across the range of military operations."

A U.S. law says the nonlethal weapons are "explicitly designed and 
primarily employed to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing 
fatalities or permanent injury to intended targets and collateral damage to 
property and the environment."

The fact sheet, however, says the weapons "are not required to have zero 
probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries but are designed 
and employed in a manner that significantly reduces those probabilities" 
compared to usual military weapons.

Every device the office explores is evaluated first for its compliance with 
U.S. law and international treaties, such as the chemical weapons ban or 
the Geneva conventions on war.

They then are tested rigorously to determine their potential harmful 
effects, first on animals and later on humans.

"Some nonlethal weapons can have unintended effects. We try to find that 
and minimize it," said Air Force Lt. Col Mark Wrobl, the chief health 
effects officer.

The military currently provides its units with a variety of nonlethal 
devices. Most of it is basic law-enforcement equipment such as face masks, 
plastic shields and shin guards to protect against projectiles, riot 
batons, battery-powered bullhorns and high-intensity lights, plastic 
handcuffs, various dispensers for pepper gas an improved form of tear gas 
and several weapons that fire small beanbags or rubber pellets.

It also has more elaborate tools, including a portable device that deploys 
a strong net-like barrier that stops a vehicle and wraps around the doors 
so the occupants cannot get away.

But all of the current devices are effective at relatively short ranges. 
Much of the research now is focused on equipment that can work at greater 
distances, Karcher and his deputies said.

One such project is the Active Denial System, a vehicle-mounted directed 
energy transmitter that creates painful heat on the skin but has no 
permanent effect.

Other long-range projects involve lasers that could stop a vehicle or a 
vessel or create a dazzling light without damaging a person's eyes.

Karcher said his office also is monitoring tests by the Navy and the 
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency involving free-electron lasers. 
Although the Navy sees the device as a potential weapon against missiles 
and small vessels, Karcher said it might be possible to lower the energy 
levels to make the free-electron laser a nonlethal tool.

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