What lessons have the US military learned from the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Lost lives, millions of dollars spent in deploying troops and lethal combat equipment, and an unresolved internal conflict in those countries – these are what the US military had to live with.
The Need For Non-Lethal Technologies
Military analysts and industry officials explain that such could have been avoided if non-lethal technologies were used to neutralize the conflict in those countries. Hence, the military sees the need for non-lethal weaponry to grow considering the kind of military weapons used recently – lighter, more portable, with greater range and customized capability to send and receive information.
Importance Of Non-Lethal Weaponry
Why is the non-lethal weapons industry important for the military?
Consider being in a war-torn country where it’s difficult to identify the enemy from allies. What happens if you fired on someone you thought to be an enemy but turned out to be an innocent bystander? You will have instantly created new enemies and bad international publicity. This is something the US troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan had to learn the hard way.
Military Budget For Development Of Non-Lethal Weapons
Such may have prompted the Defense Department to allocate funding on research, maintenance, and development of non-lethal weapons. Per data from the 2013 annual review program, about $140 million is spent every year on the development of non-lethal weapons. Some of the promising research studies include:
- Active denial systems such as anti-vehicle non-lethal weapons using electrical pulses to disable engines
- Millimeter-wave and standoff microwave systems can cause enemies to be incapacitated without inflicting permanent damage
Special Operations Command
The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has announced that it is seeking new technologies that can:
- disable and stop individuals for extended duration while remaining less lethal
- be used on combatant and non-combatant individuals
- restrict target’s ability to perform useful functions at ranges exceeding 6 feet
- use lethal payloads that will prevent combatant and non-combatant individuals from penetrating a specific area for a certain period of time
Some of the potential non-lethal weapons developed or under development include:
- Lamperd Less Lethal, Inc. developed a 40mm casing for its 40mm grenade launcher that contains 14 rubber bullets made from a patented composite material, which allows users to hit more than one target using a single round. The bullets are also more potent. The rubber doesn’t bounce, thus transferring its energy to the target. The grenade launcher is 7 pounds lighter than what’s usually available in the market.
General Dynamics developed a non-lethal 66mm grenade system called “Medusa” which can fire grenades at a distance of over 200 meters as opposed to the ordinary 66mm systems which have a 30-meter firing range.
The company is developing this non-lethal capability that can engage people hundreds of meters away before they can come near to become a potential threat. It is also developing “flash-bang grenades” that last longer and can impact adversaries with more intense pressure, sound, and light.
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has also announced it is looking for innovative technologies for:
- small unmanned systems
- small sensors
- novel long-range underwater communications
- distributed communications and navigation technology
- long-endurance mechanical and electrical systems that can survive in dormant states for many years
Non-Lethal Technologies Integrated With Innovative Communication
Non-lethal technologies being developed in the future could integrate communication equipment that is more than just the ordinary handheld radio and military headsets. The new communication equipment would allow users to broadcast their location and alert other troops to varying battlefield conditions.
The Defense Department has shown interest in non-lethal weapons but it is still assessing how to integrate lethal and non-lethal capabilities that would deter the enemies best.
Will non-lethal technologies avert loss of lives in war-torn countries?