After decades of being rejected, microwave weapons are beginning to be viewed as a serious military threat – prompting the Defense Department to issue a request to equip US soldiers with detectors for what it called “a growing threat on the battlefield ”.
The weapons, some of which cause burning sensations, have already been considered for use on American soil. In June, a federal police officer requested a truck microwave heat ray to disperse the Black Lives Matter protests. The Trump administration has considered using this same device against asylum seekers in 2018.
Now the Department of Defense wants American soldiers to be equipped with microwave weapon detectors. This was featured in a December 9 contract solicitation for “a low cost, low weight, small size portable radio frequency (RF) weapon exposure detector”, specifying high frequency microwaves, which is from the Ministry of Defense Health Program. defense.
The interest of the Ministry of Defense in the detection of microwave weapons is Israel, China and Russia would be inventing their own versions of a microwave heat ray “Active denial systemThat the United States launched two decades ago. The United States continues to develop the technology: an Air Force research laboratory deploys a “electromagnetic counter-swarm weaponCalled THOR, to fry drones in mid-flight. A prototype navy microwave weapon mounted on a standard gun holder was unveiled in 2018. The need to disable drones has become more real with the autumn war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which the former won with drone fleets decimate the defenses of the latter.
Then, in December, a new report suggested that these weapons could cause neurological injuries. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine criticized report suggested that guns were the “most plausible” explanation for the puzzling neurological injuries seen in at least 15 diplomats and their families in Cuba in 2016 and 2017.
“Without known models of [radiofrequency] injury to guide the diagnosis, it will be difficult to differentiate [microwave] injuries from other common sources of illness and injury such as heatstroke, ”defense agency microwave weapons detector says program request, which ends in about two weeks. “This ambiguous symptomology is compounded by the transient nature of RF energy. Without a sensor, it is possible that no residual evidence of RF attack is available. “
The Defense Department declined to comment on the detector’s contract. However, experts contacted by BuzzFeed News suggested that the growing military interest in microwave weapons could stem from the advent of drone-zapping weapons and the NASEM report. Technology, they added, is noteworthy as a new battlefield concern in the 21st century.
“I guess although the United States has never deployed these weapons in a theater of war, there is a fear that other actors will,” said Andrew Wood of the Australian Center for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research. by e-mail. They can easily be concealed behind fabric screens, he added, so that US military personnel experiencing burning sensations, for example, might need a detector to know if someone else is points a microwave gun at them.
Demand for the contract for a portable sensor that can fit in a rifle magazine pouch and can be attached to a vest also indicates concerns about accidental microwave exposure by workers at military test sites, said environmental epidemiologist Marloes Eeftens of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute BuzzFeed News via email.
Despite the stinging sensation one might experience when in the beam of a “heat ray-like” weapon, Eeftens warned that it would be difficult to determine if a concentrated microwave field was. to blame. “You will go out without any markings, so it’s difficult to objectively determine if and to what extent a person has actually been exposed,” she said.
There are detectors for other types of radio waves besides microwaves described in the Department of Defense contract solicitation, Paul Elliot of Magnetic Sciences Inc. in Acton, Mass., Told BuzzFeed News. They are generally intended for people who work with electronics.
“The things we sell are the size of a brick, or at least a half a brick,” he said. “You wouldn’t wear one.”
While microwaves that induce high temperatures, like those found in ovens, can cook food and cause burns, the question of whether health effects may result from less powerful has long lacked evidence and has been subjected to the types of conspiracy theories seen today on 5G cellphones.
US Air Force experiences set limits human microwave exposures in the 1970s during studies of electromagnetic pulses seen from nuclear explosions. These standards have since been widely adopted, but a NATO Technical Report 2018 called these limits scientifically unjustified, saying they were not supported by any experience showing injury. A report by French researchers Last year that low-power pulsed microwaves were associated with cancer and behavioral changes in rats again raised the issue of health effects, particularly with systems such as THOR now being considered for use in the field against drones.
“I don’t expect major safety concerns for people in the bundles, but on the other hand, the amount of research on the biological effects of these legumes is limited,” said bioengineer Ken Foster. , University of Pennsylvania. “If the army wants to deploy these weapons, it would be better if they do good security studies.”