Feeds

US special forces tool up with 'plasma blades'

Energy cutlasses cleave flesh with '66% less effort'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

America's top-secret elite commando forces have been field-testing a "plasma knife" - a handheld unit which generates a cutting "blade" of glowing ions.

Disappointingly for any wouldbe kimono-clad combat mystics out there, the handheld energy cutlass isn't intended for hand to hand combat and can't be used for parrying directed-energy-weapons fire. Rather, it's a surgical tool - intended to let combat medics cut into stricken buddies without worrying about bleeding, as the plasma blade seals off blood vessels as it slices through flesh.

Handheld plasma scalpels are already in use by normal hospital doctors, and manufacturers claim that they offer an ideal middle way between a normal steel blade and "electrosurgery" techniques. With steel you get too much bleeding: with an electric cutter, which cauterises as it goes, there's too much burning and scarring. One medical-equipment firm claims (pdf) that its plasma rigs reduce bleeding by 60 per cent compared to an ordinary knife, yet cause 75 per cent less "thermal damage" than an electrocutter. Better still, apparently one needs "66 per cent less force to cut tissue", and there is "little to no surgical smoke in the cut mode".

From the point of view of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM, the US forces' secretive supertroopers), there are some downsides to a normal plasma knife. While the unit itself is handily pen-sized, it has to be powered via cables from a bulky cart-mounted machine which requires a power socket. This isn't ideal for a surgeon operating in the snows of the Hindu Kush or the burning deserts of Helmand, far from friendly support.

Hence it seems that SOCOM has developed a "wearable, low-power" plasma cutter, presumably with a belt or harness mounted powerpack for use in the field. According to this government pdf, unearthed by the team at Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, "field evaluation" of the portable energy blade was completed at some point during the 2008 financial year. (So, worryingly, were "studies" into treating decompression sickness in divers by injecting refrigerator coolant into their veins.)

It would seem that American combat medics of the future, in addition to their spraycan wound-Polyfilla, ultrasonic blood-stifler cuffs and in-uniform drawstring tourniquets, may soon be deploying pocket lightsabres in the battle to bring their battle-stricken buddies back alive. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.