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When mobile phones pose a threat...
Non-lethal weapons used against hidden threats
Dr. Herbert Scholles
What does a police officer's truncheon or pepper sprayer have in common
with high-tech systems like medium-energy lasers (MEL) or high-power
microwave (HPM) devices? This and related issues were addressed at a
conference on non-lethal weapons (NLW) to which the Science Press
Conference (Wissenschaftspressekonferenz e.V) recently invited
journalists in Bonn.
"Non-lethal weapons allow police forces to react appropriately in
difficult situations. Aggressors can be put out of action without having
to use firearms or even endanger lives," explains Dr. Herbert Scholles,
head of development at Rheinmetall W&M GmbH. "Fundamentally comparable
to the use of truncheon or teargas, modern NLW concepts offer more
extensive possibilities and actively help to protect persons."
HPM systems like those being developed by Rheinmetall W&M in cooperation
with Diehl Munitionssysteme GmbH & Co. KG enable military and police
forces to deactivate the electronic systems inside vehicles and
consequently to stop them without actually endangering persons inside.
Mobile HPM platforms will make many a police car chase superfluous in
For instance, the Plasma Taser (working title) being investigated at
Rheinmetall W&M's center of competence for weapons and munitions in
Unterlüß is said to immobilize aggressors at a distance of more than ten
meters. A 40 mm grenade gun ejects a plasma cloud (e.g. carbon) that
conducts pulsed electrical energy to the target – without actually
physically harming the targeted person.
Moreover, for police or military operations to succeed, it is often
necessary to interrupt the communications possibilities of criminals or
hostile forces. To give an example: a kidnapper who has escaped into a
building will often have access to live reports on police action through
TV, radio or internet. Scholles: "High Power Microwave (HPM) is an
effective instrument in such situations since it can destroy or
permanently put out of action all electronic facilities in the target –
without endangering life or limb of persons located there." It is
already possible to deactivate all common electronic devices including
mobile phones with HPM systems approximately the size of a small suitcase.
Booby traps hidden in buildings or by the roadside can be triggered by
mobile phone, motion detector or timer. Mobile HPM sources can cripple
such explosives by destroying the fuze electronics from a safe distance.
This technology is also of considerable interest to the armed forces as
demonstrated by military scenarios in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Booby
traps that are hidden in buildings or by the roadside and can be
triggered by mobile phone, motion detectors or timers are, for instance,
a threat to soldiers. In the words of Scholles: "By switching off the
electronic fuze of such systems, HPM will in future be able to help save
the lives of military forces."
Incidents where e.g. civilians sitting in a car fail to stop when
requested to do so by soldiers and are attacked as suspected aggressors
are common in crisis-ridden regions – all too often with a tragic
outcome. HPM systems present an effective alternative at such military
check-points or for object protection – crippling the entire electronics
of modern vehicles at the press of a button. Even kidnappers in cars
remain unharmed as dangerous car ramming scenarios or the use of
firearms are not necessary.
Rheinmetall W&M GmbH is actively engaged in laser technologies that will
provide new ways of cost-effective target combat with opto-electronic
devices. Advanced military systems – from the guided missile to the
complete battle tank – depend on visual systems and sensors. And this is
exactly what makes them vulnerable: already today, a medium-energy laser
(MEL) is capable of destroying or deactivating the target optics of a
hostile tank over distances of several kilometers without endangering
the crew. Development expert Scholles believes that such laser weapons
offer very considerable potential: "We aim to bring the MEL technology
for air defence and for the protection of stationary or mobile
facilities to production maturity by the year 2012."