Information Warfare: The Babel Ray

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September 17, 2021: The U.S. Navy has developed a new acoustic device to deal with hostile civilians in small boats threatening or interfering with navy ships, especially in coastal waters or ports. Called AHAD (Acoustic Hailing And Disruption), it is similar to the earlier LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device). While LRAD allowed the user to speak to an individual up to 300 meters away, despite any surrounding noise, an American naval officer came up with the concept for AHAD in 2013, which was also focused sound but not for delivering a message. Instead AHAD disrupts the ability of the targeted individual or group to hear what they are saying and, in effect, disrupts their ability to talk to others nearby. AHAD also caused confusion against those on the receiving end of it for the first time. The navy gave the LRAD manufacturer a contract to develop and produce AHAD, a task that was completed in 2021. The navy expects to discover, like it had with LRAD, that AHAD will not always have the desired effect on targets but expects AHAD, like LRAD, to find other uses.

This was the case with LRAD after it was introduced in 2003 and eventually found success doing things it wasn't originally designed for. LRAD is basically a focused beam of sound, originally designed to emit a very loud sound. Anyone whose head was touched by this beam, heard a painfully loud sound. Anyone standing next to them heard nothing. But most of those hit by the beam promptly fled, or fell to the ground in pain. Permanent hearing loss was possible if the beam was kept on a person for several seconds, but given the pain, they usually move away quickly. LRAD works and has sold over 50,000 units since first introduced, mostly to police and other agencies that need to communicate with people during disaster situations, riots or unruly crowds in general.

Soon many U.S. Navy ships were equipped with LRAD and many large commercial vessels found it useful, as did coast guard, harbor police and any who needed to deliver a message to one or more people more effectivity than the traditional public address system. The navy initially believed LRAD would be used for repelling suicide bombers, or whatever. Instead LRAD became a popular item for much gentler applications. LRAD can also broadcast speech for up to 300 meters. The navy planned to use LRAD to warn other ships or boats to get out of the way when radio or other signals did not work. This was needed in places like the crowded coastal waters of the northern Persian Gulf, which the U.S. has patrolled for decades. Many small fishing and cargo boats ply these waters, and it's often hard to get the attention of the crews. With LRAD, you just aim it at a member of the crew, and have an interpreter "speak" to the sailor. It was noted that the guy on the receiving end was sometimes terrified, even after he realized it was that large American destroyer that was talking to him. This apparently gave the American soldiers some ideas, for there were soon rumors in Iraq of a devilish American weapon that makes people believe they are hearing voices in their heads, sometimes claiming to be God. Sometimes that doesn’t work, as was discovered in 2008, off Somalia, where LRAD was used, cranked up to the pain setting, by a tanker crew trying and defeat a pirate attack. But the pirates simply took the pain, kept on coming, and got aboard the chemical tanker.

LRAD became an unexpected best-seller as a communications device. During very loud demonstrations, or events of any sort, LRAD enables the police, or troops, to communicate to key people in the crowd, or simply in the way. While many of those receiving a clearly comprehensible message from a cop, or soldier, they can't see, are alarmed, they also tend to comply. In 2009 U.S. Army reserve units bought over a hundred LRAD systems, and even the Chinese National Police bought some. Within five years thousands of LRADs had been purchased by the military, police forces and security firms, who often used LRAD to protect ships from pirate attack.

The device looks like a very thin searchlight, and is moved around and aimed just like you would with a searchlight. Eventually a handheld version costing $5,000 became the most popular version. Larger and more powerful versions, costing up to $200,000 each, were developed that could transmit messages to everyone within at least 300 meters. This model is used to get essential information to people during storms where immediate evacuation can be a life-saver. LRAD requires little training, and provides instant results. What began as a non-lethal weapon ended up succeeding as a better way to communicate. The pain option is still available but not guaranteed to get a very angry or very drunk crowd to disperse.

AHAD is similar to LRAD except it listens and repeats back, with a disorientating delay, what individuals or groups are saying and makes verbal communication difficult if not impossible to those exposed to it for the first time. Like LRAD, the uses and usefulness of AHAD won’t be discovered until the new device gets some practical use. The thousands of satisfied LRAD users are likely to at least try out AHAD and reviews will quickly show up via messaging apps.

 


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