US unveils new weapon

The United States military is about to add a new weapon to its already impressive arsenal in Iraq. But in contrast to other armaments, this one does not shoot or explode. It screams and hollers.

A defence contractor announced it had secured a one-million-dollar deal to supply the First US Marine Expeditionary Force, slated to rotate into Iraq later this month, with a so-called Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD.

“Deliveries under the contract have begun with completion expected by early April,” American Technology Corporation said in a recent statement.

In layman’s parlance, it is supplying the military with a giant loudspeaker that seems to borrow some of its technology from modern pest-control devices that shoo away mice and other pesky critters with the help of ultrasound.

While LRAD can boom commands, it can also deliver a shrill 145-decibel tone over a distance of more than 300 metres, causing splitting headaches, pain, panic and, in some cases, even hearing loss, according to military experts.

The sound is about twice as powerful as the scream of a standard smoke detector.
And earplugs won’t help, the experts added.

Peter Dotto, a retired Marine Corps colonel who now works on non-lethal weapons at M2 Technologies, said the device was likely to be used for “crowd control, area denial of personnel including check point operations, and clearing buildings”.

The loudspeaker is particularly effective in dispersing hostile demonstrations of the type witnessed in Iraq earlier this month or in driving insurgents out of holes without exposing US troops to hostile fire, the experts explained.

The weapon has a powerful champion in US Senator Olympia Snowe, who said LRAD was going to afford the military “a new and dynamic non-lethal capability” and made sure it was included in an $87-billion supplemental package approved last year to finance military operations and reconstruction projects in Iraq.

“I believe that our nation has an obligation to provide our men and women in uniform with the best resources possible,” Snowe stated.

But independent military expert and frequent Pentagon critic William Arkin said that while the weapon could be effectively used to chase terror mastermind Osama bin Laden out of his cave, its use in Iraqi cities could harm the sick, elderly and children.

“The US is making a huge mistake by trying to quietly deploy a new pain-inducing weapon without first airing all of the legal, policy and human rights issues associated with it,” Arkin wrote in The Los Angeles Times. - Sapa-AFP

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