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US troops in Iraq are set to use a non-lethal energy beam weapon mounted on a Humvee.

The ray uses a beam which heats up the skin to a depth of 1/64 of an inch. This burning sensation is very painful but won't cause actual damage unless the subject stays in the beam for as long as 250 seconds. It is hoped it will provide a less lethal way of clearing the streets of (live) Iraqi civilians.

Or that's the theory. Testing has been carried out by the US Airforce Lab, which also develops the weapon, which is a "clear conflict", according to Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News. There is concern that the beam could damage eyesight - although probably not as much as an M-16 rifle can.

The barrier to using such technology on a vehicle has been a strong enough power source. Researchers claim to have solved this problem, and 15 vehicles have been ordered under Project Sheriff.

The "Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System", or V-MADS, looks like an ordinary Humvee but with an enormous, square satellite dish on its roof. Only this time it's not Sky One that'll be frying your brain. Background and pictures here.®

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