By on April 30, 2018

There are many people who feel every federal agency does not require the kind of machine gun-toting SWAT teams that have proliferated in Washington over recent decades. Also, for 140 years, since the passing of the Posse Comitatus Act, Americans have thought that keeping military and police functions separate is a good idea. In recent decades, as billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment was made available to American police agencies following the first Gulf War and subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, concern has been raised over that equipment leading to both militarization and corruption of local police and sheriff’s departments.

Still, from coagulants designed to staunch battlefield wounds to Global Positioning Satellites originally used by our military, some technologies are just too good to be restricted to being used to break stuff and kill folks. Now, a direct energy “ray gun” developed to protect military installations from car and truck bombs could have civilian uses. The device focuses microwave energy at a vehicle, overloading its electrical system and causing the Engine Control Unit to reboot over and over, disabling the vehicle.

In light of the recent attack in Toronto where a driver killed 10 pedestrians with a van, the Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper could prove useful in protecting the public from terrorists and deranged individuals, but one version of the device could also be used to stop high speed police chases — which endanger both members of the public and law enforcement officers.

The RFVS is a product of at least eight years of development at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Non Lethal Weapons Program. As indicated by the program’s title, the device will not harm the vehicle’s driver, a feature that makes it suitable for civilian use. It also only temporarily disables the vehicles, so police departments won’t have to worry about lawsuits for damaged property, something of little concern to the military.

David Law heads the JNLWP, and he’s quite confident in the Vehicle Stopper’s effectiveness. “Anything that has electronics on it, these high-powered microwaves will affect,” Law said in a statement reported by Defense One. “As long as the [device] is on, it holds the vehicle stopped.”

Law’s team has developed two versions. For force protection, i.e. keeping truck and car bombs from exploding near military checkpoints and bases, there is a stationary device with a large dish antenna. It has a range of a few hundred meters. Presumably, for civilian use it could be prepositioned near facilities though to be vulnerable to terrorist attacks like power stations or any place where large crowds gather.

A smaller, portable, pickup truck mounted version brings to mind the loudspeaker mounted on Elwood and Jake’s Bluesmobile, and, with a range of just 50 meters, it is intended more for hot pursuits. In military use, the driver is expected to outrun the attacker, pull in front of them, and turn on the device. In civilian use I can see it being deployed the same way police departments put down spike strips ahead of fleeing vehicles.

Since the device is technically a radio jamming device, it might need a waiver to avoid conflict with the Federal Communications Act.

The JNLWP has demonstrated working prototypes that can apparently stop both cars/trucks and boats. Direct energy weapons require quite a bit of electrical power. While those prototypes require a generator that weighs three tons and takes up most of a shipping container, the latest versions are based on a turbine-driven generator from Indiana’s Candent Technologies that weighs just 400 lbs and puts out 300 kilowatts of electrical power. The Pentagon says it will have prototypes based on the Candant turbine up and running (and stopping vehicles) some time next year.

[Image: U.S. Dept. of Defense]

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27 Comments on “Could Pentagon’s Direct Energy Ray Gun Put an End to High Speed Police Chases?...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    According to legend, keying a high powered CB radio used to be able to make fuel injected VW bugs stall. The electronic brain for the old D-Jetronic fuel injection wasn’t well shielded- the EMP wouldn’t fry it, but it would upset it just enough that you had to reboot it (turn the key off and back on).

  • avatar
    gtem

    I like how the truck mounted unit is in the back of a Colorado/Canyon dressed up like a ME-spec dusty refrigerator white Hilux. C’mon guys, at least use a Tacoma or something! :p

  • avatar
    gasser

    We need one of these mounted on every freeway overpass in L.A. to put a stop to high speed pursuits.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Looks like a gramophone to me.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    The very last thing we need in today’s America is yet more military-grade weapon technology landing in the shaking and sweaty hands of ill-trained, trigger-happy municipal police departments.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    One step closer to the Crossbow Project.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a six inch spike and a board to deal with….

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Can they make one that just shuts off people’s Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter feeds?

  • avatar
    eCurmudgeon

    “The device focuses microwave energy at a vehicle, overloading its electrical system and causing the Engine Control Unit to reboot over and over, disabling the vehicle.”

    I’d be much more concerned about what a directed beam of microwaves would do to various soft tissues (such as eyeballs) in people.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      Depends on the frequency. “Microwave” is a fairly broad range from 300 MHz to 300 GHz.

      Domestic microwave ovens operate around 2.45 GHz because that’s the best frequency for heating up water molecules. I would imagine that energy weapons are probably in the upper end of the range and be fairly tight collimated.

      Theoretically it could be fine but the devil is in the details.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Hopefully this thing makes a cool “PEW PEW PEW!” sound when you use it.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    Buck Rogers, to the rescue!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    So, how would this work against something with a carb, mechanical fuel pump, and a breaker point distributor? I’m guessing not very well.

  • avatar
    NTGD

    Does this mean we’re a step closer to having fully functional K.I.T.T. replica’s out there? When is turbo boost going to be available?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Turbo boost? Heck, Super Pursuit Mode with all the goofy spoilers sticking out. Oh, that Bonnie was so good at inventing stuff and so good in so many other ways too!

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    A bit of shielding, and proper grounding for the ECU, which quite frankly should be EMP proof by default these days, and suddenly this thing won’t work anymore.

  • avatar
    JMII

    How do you place this in front of someone during a high speed CHASE? By definition a chase means you are behind the vehicle you are trying to shut down. Thus it appears they mounted it on the wrong end of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    JGlanton

    It’s neat, but until it’s on a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft with longer range effectiveness it’s going to have limited use. Mostly protecting fixed hardened locations, which are already protected with other means. It’s not like these will be on a lot of patrol cars driving around looking for robbers to chase, and it’ll never be where you need it for terrorists doing vehicle attacks on soft targets. I guess if it’s cheap enough it can be installed on highway overpasses, bridges and tunnels in areas with a lot of police chases. Border crossings.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    Hmm. 300kw in a portable generator? That’s 400 hp, just for comparison. Sure, it might be a bit more compact than a V8 if using a turbine, but IIRC, turbines also aren’t as efficient? Or are they more? I.e. if it takes 400 hp to run the ray gun, that’s burning pretty fast. I’m sure you could run through a gallon of fuel in a couple of minutes.. (diesel? gasoline?). So then you gotta refill the tank eventually.

    Also, how wide/long an effective swath does this project? How long does a car on a high speed chase take to stop? 150 ft from 60-70 mph is pretty good, IIRC. If doing 100, in a not-designed-for-speed (i.e. not a $100K+ car), you might take 200-300 feet to stop. So clearly, this can’t be positioned by the side of the road facing across the street – it has to be put on the street facing hundreds of feet back and still be effective throughout the range – otherwise the disabled car is like a curling rock, hurtling towards the ray gun. I guess if the guy with the gun’s also driving, almost matching speeds or something? I.e. if you project between 500-300 feet behind the truck, and the car skids 200+ feet, comes out at 300 feet behind you, and starts up again. And how wide – you can still steer (except for electrical steering?), so you could possibly put it in neutral, wait until going 30-40 and turn to the side to get away.. Seems like there’s way too many ways for this to go wrong.

    For the stationary use, it makes sense – if you come within 100 or 200 feet or whatever, your car gets disabled and stalls. And you hit the wall/building at 30 mph instead of 130.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      The peak transmitting power is probably even bit higher- but only lasting a split second.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Turbines are hugely efficient at their designated RPM for maximum efficiency – and they’ll burn nearly anything. Starting one, though is an exercise in waste. I read that an M1A1 uses 19 gallons of fuel just to start its engine.


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