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The Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate has been developing the Thermal Laser System since 2005, with the purpose of developing a weapon that could disperse crowds or incapacitate individuals by causing them to experience burning sensations in their skin. According to NewScientist magazine, the weapon has evolved into a rifle-mounted instrument, and there are plans for a hand-held model that could be used by police forces. News of the possibility that police departments could obtain the burn weapon will likely concern civil-liberties advocates, who have been watching with alarm as the Taser conducted-energy weapon has gone into regular use in police forces across the United States.
“I’d like to know why they want another advanced pain compliance weapon like this,” says Steve Wright, non-lethal weapons analyst at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK. “Persuading by pain rather than brain – through conversation – has led to push-button torture in the past. If it leaves no mark on the skin how will anyone prove it’s been abused?”
As of January 2007, the system has entered extended user evaluation phase, and is currently deployed with the Air Force's 820th Security Forces Group (SFG) at Moody air force base in Georgia, USA. 820 is the first unit selected to conduct these tests. The system will be evaluated in assisting troops in securing base perimeters, checkpoints and entry control points during peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, and crowd dispersal.
Human effects experts have determined there are no long-term health effects associated with ADS, and research involving more than 600 volunteers and 10,000 exposures has proven there is a less than a one tenth of 1 percent chance of even a very minor injury.