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The 820th Security Forces Group is currently evaluating the Active Denial System, a non-lethal weapon designed to engage and repel human targets by projecting a beam of energy that creates an intolerable heating sensation on the skin. ADS can potentially give deployed Airmen another option to employ in the Global War on Terrorism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gina Chiaverotti)
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820th SFG evaluates non-lethal weapon

Posted 1/25/2007   Updated 1/25/2007 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel
23rd Wing Public Affairs

1/25/2007 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The 820th Security Forces Group is currently evaluating a long-range, non-lethal weapon system that could eventually save lives in the Global War on Terrorism.

The Active Denial System is designed to engage and repel human targets by projecting a beam of energy that creates an intolerable heating sensation on the skin, said Tech. Sgt. John DeLaCerda, 820th SFG advanced technologies NCO-in charge.

"Right now, we don't have a medium between shouting and shooting when determining an adversary's intent," he said. "When operating ADS, you can be at a distance even further than small arms range and still repel an individual."

The ADS beam is invisible and operates on a 95-gigahertz millimeter radio frequency wavelength that moves at the speed of light.

The effect penetrates the skin at 1/64 of an inch which causes pain receptors to react. Once removed from the targeted area, the effect of the beam quickly dissipates.

"The pain is comparable to an intensified version of opening an oven and feeling the initial blast of hot air," said Staff Sgt. Jason Delacruz, an ADS operator who has also been exposed on several occasions for training purposes. "The effects are extremely sudden, and natural instincts automatically force you to quickly exit the target area."

ADS cannot be impeded by most readily available materials and is designed to be very discriminate.

While the effects can be unpleasant, ADS has undergone extensive testing since its inception more than 12 years ago.

Human effects experts have determined there are no long-term health effects associated with ADS, and research involving more than 600 volunteers and 10,000 exposures has proven there is a less than 1/10 of 1 percent chance of even a very minor injury.

The beam is also designed only to affect an individual for a short moment due to safety presets and features, said Sergeant DeLaCerda.

"ADS isn't developed to engage a target for a long period of time, and we aren't trained to operate it that way," he said. "Once we expose an individual and determine their intent, we will no longer engage them with the beam."

The 820th SFG is the first unit selected to conduct the Extended User Evaluation portion of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration process.

This process is designed to expedite the transfer of advanced technologies to the warfighters.

To evaluate the system, the 820th SFG is conducting a series of realistic combat scenarios to determine its potential effectiveness in a deployed environment.
Some of the system's intended benefits include helping troops secure base perimeters, checkpoints and entry control points, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, and crowd dispersal, said Sergeant DeLaCerda.

During a media day held Wednesday, reporters saw how ADS might be utilized in several operational scenarios. The reporters were also provided an opportunity to experience the effect for themselves.

While still in the evaluation phase, the 820th SFG believes this non-lethal technology can play a vital role in protecting lives and enhancing mission success for deployed troops, said Sergeant Delacruz.

"ADS has been very effective, and we're getting a lot of positive feedback," said the sergeant. "Non-lethal weapons have a real role on today's complex battlefield because telling the difference between combatants and non-combatants can be very difficult. In the long run, this can help limit collateral damage, protect the innocent and save the lives of our men and women in combat."

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