Wednesday, January 24, 2007

STRAPPED-DOWN CHICKEN TEST: The mobile micro-waver, again and ad nauseum

Many stories of technological glee from the military never go away even though one wishes they would. Prime among them is the tale of the military's mobile microwaver.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote about it for the Village Voice back in 2002. It was old and annoying then. Time has not made it better, only more cruel and stupid.

"The Pentagon has always craved a phaser," DD wrote. "Now it's turning to microwaving as a potential means of singeing the enemy. The Department of Defense's bland name for this electronic heat ray is the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial (VMAD) system, a mouthful of jargon that yields few clues about the weapon's nature. Allegedly designed for an Orwellian task—'humanitarian missions'—the VMAD is a giant version of your microwave oven, without the safety box surrounding it. The generals want to move it around on a humvee."

The Kool-Aid passed around on it was the microwaver was good for America, good for foes because it wouldn't kill them, good for everybody. So good!

However, ". . . anyone with first-hand experience broiling hot dogs and other non-robust meats in their tabletop microwave might be chary of such an assertion. Struck by the heat ray, 'Sssss,' went the eyeball."

"What is the microwaver's target? It must be unarmed civilians, because as described, the VMAD wouldn't seem to offer much against terrorists or regular soldiers ready to fire back with conventional weapons. What is certain is that the Pentagon's microwave projects lack oversight and common sense. In one manic, grandiose claim, the Defense Department calls VMAD 'the biggest breakthrough in weapons technology since the atomic bomb.'"

The entirety is here.

So the mobile microwaver is alleged to be absolutely safe. The favorite buzzword is "non-lethal." Anything to which this term can be attached is then peddled as good for humanity.

And to prove this military, over the years, has invited reporters and others to its strapped-down chicken tests where, if they wish, they can stand in front of it and be made to jump.

Manufactured by Raytheon, it's as good a waste of taxpayer dollars as can be imagined. The military microwaver, you see, has always been coming but never quite arriving, perhaps one reason being because no sensible officer wants to see his career go down in flames over it when it's unleashed on a defenseless crowd and creates an atrocity that's captured on TV camera. It is the equivalent of welfare for its crew of civilian and military boffin developers.

The current raft of stories came out of a test conducted at Moody AFB in Georgia, today. The most beamish headline DD saw was one from a local TV news station which apparently is driven to put a happy face on everything having to do with the nearby base.

"Moody tests new life-saving technology," it reads, leading one to think -- if only seeing it in newsfeed, that perhaps the military has invested in a new piece of medical equipment for the battlefield, or something good, not something noxious and pestilential. (The original.)

"The idea is that [its] heat wave will help deter combatants without killing them," reports the station. [One could say the same about BZ, an old and banned US military "tear gas" that created what might be described as a really really bad trip. That was to deter people, too.]

"And Team Moody [ DD loves Team Moody!] has no doubt the weapon would help with their security operations overseas. " 'It will help with all of our missions. Having this capability, this tool in our tool box for whatever mission we're going to go, we're glad to bring it with us,' Col. Decknick adds."

"The Active Denial System is still years away from production and DOD officials estimate it will cost millions of dollars each by the time they are ready to deploy."

In practical matters, one can see it immediately being taken out by a RPG or an IED in Iraq, being an attractive and hard-to-miss target, ensuring it stays safe in the motor pool. Seriously now, fellows, would you want to drive it on Iraq's mean streets? No thanks.

AP did the usual on the story. Send a reporter to report on the cheerful volunteers gleefully signed up to be targets, the chickens -- so to speak, in the test.

No one, of course, asks the obvious question. How long would it last in domestic use against a crowd before being sued out of action?

" 'There should be no collateral damage to this,' said Senior Airman Adam Navin, 22, of Green Bay, Wis., who has served several tours in Iraq," as reported by Associated Press.

"Navin and two other airmen were role players in Wednesday's demonstration.

"They and 10 reporters who volunteered were shot with the beams. The beams easily penetrated various layers of winter clothing.

"Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, of New Orleans, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis constantly pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout out US forces.

"' All we could do is watch them,' he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops 'could have dispersed them.'" [Full AP story, here.)

Hmmm, maybe in his mind. Real life, one reckons, wouldn't be quite so cooperative or predictable.

Next year: Same story, different reporters to be burned, the lame made to see, the blind to walk, more life-saving technology. [Life-saving technology. That's so rich, DD loves it, perhaps making a great slogan for a T-shirt.]


Blogger Reitred Catholic said...

What do you want to bet that they have a smaller version to use during interrogations?

11:42 AM  

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