Electronic Weapons: August 5, 2001


The marines are developing tactics for the use of their new "people zapper" (a directed energy weapon that makes people feel like their skin is on fire without actually harming them.) The marines built two mocks of the device, using a powerful searchlight as a substitute for the zapper. The zapper is also being used in electronic wargames. The system, with some changes to tactics, appears to work. There are still three unknowns. The most obvious one is the commotion some human rights groups will make when the first system (at a cost of $6 million each) enters service. No matter that the zapper is meant to reduce casualties, some groups will oppose it on principle and get a lot of media time as they push for abolishing the zapper. Then there is the problem of snipers (which the zapper is meant to deal with.) The zapper looks like a radar dish mounted on a hummer. A big target. A few bullets in the dish can put it out of action. The third unknown is whether a really revved up crowd would ignore the pain and just keep coming. None of these unknowns will be clarified until the zapper can see some real action. Such has always been the fate of new electronic devices for the military.


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