Procurement: Adding Taser to the Arsenal


July 15, 2007: The U.S. Army has ordered more 2,400 Tasers (in this case, the X26 stun gun). The Department of Defense has been in the forefront of developing non-lethal weapons, but there has been great reluctance to using them. That's because there is no such thing as a "non-lethal" weapon, only "less lethal" weapons. Someone would do the world a favor by replacing the term "non-lethal weapon" with "less-lethal weapon." Thus because of the possibility that people would be injured or killed by "non-lethal" weapons, resulting in negative publicity, the military is reluctant to use them.

The high end version of the Taser guns costs about $500, while the cartridges are about $50 each. The Taser has range of 15 feet, which is far as the two wires from the gun reach. Two metal probes attach to the targets clothing and an electrical signal is sent that confuses the human nervous system. As a result, the victim is incapacitated for several minutes. Critics, however, claim (without proof) that at least fifty people have been killed by Tasers since 1999. The military purchase of the Tasers will bring the bogus death stories out again, with the implication being that the troops had a new way to kill people.

Non-lethal weapons are a nice sounding idea that few soldiers want to touch. Either because the weapons won't really disable the foe who is trying to kill you, or because the device might turn out to be lethal after all, and the media will go after you for being a war criminal.

But the military does have many situations where something like the Taser is the best tool for the job. In military prisons, especially in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, Tasers are a more effective, and less lethal, way to deal with unruly inmates. Another interesting applications is mounting Tasers on robots, which are then used to provide security for military bases. This is already offered as an option by IRobot, which manufactures the widely used military PackBot robot. In many military installations, most of the intrusions are by thieves, not terrorists. With current security systems, your only option is to open fire with rifles, if an intruder refuses to halt. Until you question the guy, or examine his body, you have no way of knowing if he's a thief or a terrorist. With the Taser armed PackBot, you can remotely use a Taser on an intruder. Robots like the PackBot are being used to patrol some of the perimeters of large bases. Used in conjunction with sensor systems, you can have a Taser armed Packbot on the scene of an intrusion before armed security personnel can get there.




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