Illustration by Jason Lee
Nonlethal weapons could be used to disperse crowds, repel attackers or, as readers learn in “Shoot to Not Kill” (May 2003 issue), test the pain tolerance of journalists. Nonlethal weapons can be acoustic, chemical or electrical in nature, and range from the simple to the highly complex. Here are some selected technologies, at various stages of development, that the U.S. military has considered for its nonlethal arsenal:
Blunt Impact Projectiles: Sting balls, rubber balls, beanbag rounds, baton-shaped rubber projectiles.
Sponge Grenades: Soft nose minimizes serious injury.
Calmative Agent Sponge Projectile: Sponge-delivered doses of incapacitating chemicals.
Modular Crowd Control Munition: Contains hundreds of sting balls.
Sticky Foam: Could slow or delay a hostile force´s approach.
Slippery Foam: Spread across a path, this would hinder pursuers trying to cross over.
Taser Grenade: For firing taser cartridges.
The Sticky Shocker: Launched like a projectile, it shoots barbs onto the target´s clothing, then sends incapacitating high-voltage pulses.
Anti-Personnel Acoustics: Various concepts have been explored for creating acoustic sources that would be capable of disabling a suspect.
Flash: An array of grenade-launched, non-explosive flashbulbs used for crowd dispersal.
Obscurants: Smoke could be used above ground to reduce visibility; inks could be dispersed underwater for the same purpose.
40mm MK 19 Non-Lethal Munition: These nonlethal rounds would be fired from a grenade machine gun.
Objective Individual Combat Weapon: A delivery system that could deploy payloads such as malodorants, markers or anti-traction devices.
Entanglement Grenade: A net fired over a small crowd that could be used as a containment device.
Unmanned Powered Parafoil: Remote-controlled aerial spray dispenser.
Non-Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse: For use against automobile engines. Project abandoned, but some interest remains in applying it to ships.
Magnetic Pulse: Intense, focused magnetic fields, designed to knock out electronics.
E-Bomb: A radio-frequency generator deployed by bomb.
High-Power Microwave: For the defense of Navy ships, and to attack aircraft. Could also be used against power plants, information systems, radar and engines.
Ground Vehicle Stopper (GVS): A high-power microwave device.
Pulsed Current: An anti-materiel device designed to stop vehicles in high-speed chases.
Running Gear Entanglement System (RGES): A rope net that wraps itself around the propeller of an enemy vessel. The trick is deploying the system; surface- and air-launch deliveries have both been considered.
Viscosity Agents: These are fuel thickeners; the means of delivery is still undecided.
Fuel Contaminants: Chemical compounds that could ruin the enemy´s stored fuel.
I-Visible: A fuel additive that makes exhaust emit a detectable infrared signature.
RF Taggant: A tracer encased in a sticky bullet, used as a tracking device.