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US weaponry globocorp Raytheon tried a small change of pace this week, announcing successful field trials of enormous microwave patio heaters intended to prevent frost damage in crops.

Raytheon refer to their mighty oven-tower machines as Tempwave™.

"Our expertise in radio frequency has enabled a disruptive product that frees growers from the limits and variations inherent in existing frost protection methods," said Raytheon veep Lee Silvestre of the firm's Integrated Defense Systems unit. "Tempwave autonomously and precisely delivers energy directly where it's needed to prevent freezing."

The arms firm says it has carried out successful tests of Tempwave in Californian citrus orchards. A frost at the wrong time is a dreaded event for citrus farmers, as it can wipe out an entire crop in one night. Vintners, also numerous in California, suffer similar worries over their grapes.

Raytheon has developed much of the radio-frequency knowhow mentioned by Silvestre in such technologies as radar and communications. However, it also offers a product specifically intended to heat up living things composed largely of water - the famous, crowd-griddling Active Denial System pain raygun. It would seem likely that the Tempwave mega-patio-heater towers draw heavily on expertise acquired during the ADS excrucio-blaster programme.

What we have here, then, is agony cannons up poles converted into mighty agrobiz patio heaters. They run on "grid electricity", according to Raytheon, which may get up the noses of the environmentalist tendency as much as regular patio heaters do: but the firm argues that the microwave heating is actually more energy efficient than other methods growers might use, as it heats up only the crops rather than the intervening air.

Swords beaten into ploughshares doesn't really seem to cover this, somehow. ®

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