Project Sheriff: ADS Continues to Jump Through Hoops
In the last month, the Army has been promoting its ADS system, with exercises held in late December, as well as promotional civilian communications, such as the YouTube video appearing in today’s Rapid Fire.
Airmen of the 820th Security Forces Group are busy these days. Not only are they conducting the user trial and training for the GSAT ShotSpotter + ScanEagle anti-sniper system, they’re also the first unit selected to conduct the extended user evaluation portion of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) process for “Project Sherrif,” otherwise known as the Active Denial System. ADS won Popular Science magazine’s “Best of What’s New Award” in general technology back in 2001, and DID has been covering this system since May 2005; despite funding and requests from combat commanders, however, the system continues to move toward approval at a very slow pace.
More than 700 volunteers have been tested with the system. Of those, 2 experienced second-degree burns, the last in 2007. It was briefly deployed in Afghanistan in 2010, but reportedly withdrawn without having seen action, according to reports from an interview between Noah Schactman (then of Wired) and General Stanley McChrystal.
In the last month, the Army has been promoting its ADS system, with exercises held in late December, as well as promotional civilian communications, such as the YouTube video appearing in today’s Rapid Fire. The communications come from the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program.
ADS uses invisible, focused microwave beams at a frequency that that can’t penetrate human skin, but does stimulate nerves within it, producing an imaginary but painful burning sensation that instinctively forces people to move away. Past Project Sheriff reports also describe an escalating series of measures, from a “Long Range Acoustic Device” (sonic blaster), up to a Laser Dazzler, then on to the ADS pain ray before things escalate to live ammunition. Tech. Sgt. John DeLaCerda, the NCO in charge of the 820th SFG advanced technologies section, put it this way:
“Right now, we don’t have a medium between shouting and shooting when determining an adversary’s intent… When operating ADS, you can be at a distance even further than small arms range and still repel an individual… ADS has been very effective, and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback.”
A September 2005 DID article noted the role of the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation in (aka. “Project Sheriff“) as an alternative to sometimes-lethal plastic bullets or even live ammunition in order to control hostile crowds. DID has covered the ADS’ long and winding road before, from our initial May 2005 article to an August 2005 follow-on re: human volunteer testing. In December 2005, we linked to a DefenseTech report that had the ADS headed into Iraq.
It has not been deployed there yet, much to the USAF’s own puzzlement, though a February 2006 report noted both the authorization of $31.3 million for 3 deployable vehicles, and a request from the chief of staff for Multi-National Corps-Iraq for 14 ADS vehicles.
It is now almost February 2007, and 820th SFG Airmen are just now beginning to conduct a series of realistic combat scenarios to determine the system’s “potential effectiveness in a deployed environment.” Intended uses and scenarios include helping troops secure base perimeters, assistance at checkpoints and entry control points, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, and crowd dispersal/ riot control. The 820th SFG will incorporate the ADS into its training and exercise plan until mid-2007.
May 9/13: The military is seeking a system that can act as a “sensor dummy” on which to test various non-lethal (but, apparently painful) denial measures.
Jul 8/10: ADS was briefly deployed in Afghanistan in 2010, but reportedly withdrawn without having seen action, according to reports from an interview between Noah Schactman (then of Wired) and General Stanley McChrystal.
Aug 31/07: Raytheon delivers ADS 2 to the U.S. Air Force. ADS-2 is an enhanced, ruggedized version of the initial ADS that Raytheon built for the Air Force under the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program. Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the Joint Non- lethal Weapons Directorate, said that:
“We are very pleased with the way the Raytheon team has worked as systems integrators to reach this important milestone. Active Denial System 2 incorporates design improvements enabling the system to be employed in all operational environments… This represents a major step forward in providing the warfighter with a viable, non-lethal, extended range, active denial capability.”
Jan 24/07: The Department of Defense has a press day to show off – and demonstrate – its non-lethal weapons. See DefenseLINK’s “DoD Shows Off Non-lethal Energy Weapon.” Elliot Minor of the Associated Press (see photo) certainly looks duly impressed by the demonstration…
- Program FAQ (Jan 13/15) – The Non-Lethal Weapons Program published a FAQ here.
- US Air Force Link (Jan 25/07) – Moody Airmen test new, nonlethal method of repelling enemy.
- US DefenseLINK – (June 23/05) – Review Under Way to Expand, Refine Nonlethal Weapons Training