Could Pentagon's Direct Energy Ray Gun Put an End to High Speed Police Chases?
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.
— Defense One (@DefenseOne) April 25, 2018
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.
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