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The feds' backpack microwave raygun - tactical prototype being tested right now in California

Many readers will be familiar with the Active Denial System, the huge Humvee- or truck-mounted microwave raygun cannon developed for crowd-control purposes by the US military but so far never deployed.

The ADS is supposed to work by emitting a powerful beam of microwaves which penetrates only the outer layers of a victim's skin, causing an intolerable burning sensation but no lasting harm. The idea is that the weapon would avoid US troops having to open fire with lethal bullets when confronted by angry and/or violent mobs overseas, instead scattering their adversaries with a painful but ultimately harmless roaster-raying.

As an enormous truck-mounted weapon the ADS as such is outside our scope in this article: but not everyone knows that in fact a portable, handheld version for use by American cops, feds or other law-enforcement operatives is in development.

Under a programme called "Solid State Active Denial System Demonstration Program" the National Institute of Justice - the Q branch of the US Justice Department - awarded funds in 2004 to build a "high power solid state radio frequency directed energy weapon brassboard. This was essentially a lab demonstration model and does not resemble the envisioned hand-held weapon". The existence of this prototype has been previously reported on here and there.

But then in 2009, the Justice boffinry chiefs assigned a further $574,946 to Raytheon - makers of the original ADS - to take the lab prototype and turn it into a proper handheld raygun. The initiative is described thus:

Utilizing the 2004 brassboard, this 2009 effort will produce an RF weapon with a tactical weight and form factor... Efforts will be made to produce a semi-tactical weapon with ruggedization techniques applied. The supporting system components will be designed into a lightweight backpack that is connected to the weapon by an umbilical style cable cluster.

The resulting weapon will have the look, feel, and RF functionality of a tactical man-portable active denial weapon. The weapon will approach the weight, ruggedization, firing-time and environmental requirements that the eventual fielded weapon will be required to have...

So how's it going? The US government's quarterly report as of September describes progress on the backpack roaster-ray project, being carried out at a Raytheon lab located in Rancho Cucamonga, California:

The complete detailed layout of the weapon and backpack is finished. Integration and testing of the full system is planned for November. At that time, the full solid state array will be integrated with the weapon system and backpack system and tested as a package...

Battery testing is expected to begin in late October. The control software was developed with basic functionality. Detailed coding will be completed after hardware testing...

Raytheon plans to demonstrate the full system in late November or early December.

So we can take it that as this article is written the finishing touches are being put to the US Justice Department's backpack microwave raygun-rifle, and it will shortly be tried out. Handheld rayguns finally exist for real.

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