The US Marines are developing a new laser weapon that can transmit voice messages at long range, or be turned up to deafen, dazzle or even kill.
The Scalable Compact Ultra-short Pulse Laser System (SCUPLS) will be mounted on a truck or tank.
It will initially be used as a non-lethal weapon for crowd control, according to US Government documents.
The aim of the project is to ‘Develop a lightweight and energy efficient next-generation Ultra-Short Pulse Laser (USPL) system that can produce sustainable and controllable plasma at range capable of inducing a full spectrum of scalable non-lethal effects.’
The weapon works using an igniter laser, that fires an intense short pulse powerful enough to create a ball of plasma.
This can be created in mid-air, or on the surface of a target.
A stronger detonator laser then explodes the plasma ball, which can be used to create ‘enhanced non-lethal effects such as flash bang effects, thermal ablation for pain, and delivery of intelligible voice commands at range’ according to military documents.
However, the weapon could also eventually be used to kill.
The document mentions future plans include ‘advancement of possible full spectrum of effects capabilities from non-lethal to lethal, along with added Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance system capabilities.’
The weapon can produce a range of effects.
At the lowest setting, the weapon can produce speech, and it will be able to warn people upto 1,000m away by delivering voice messages.
When it gets closer, the weapon will deliver a ‘Flash-bang effect’ by sending an ‘acoustic blast of ~ 165+ dB at minimum distance of 100 meters’.
It will also be able to send a ‘Flash blind effects (6-8 million candela)’ momentarily blinding people at minimum distance of 100 meters
The highest setting of the current model will let loose ‘Full scalable thermal ablative effects’ through common natural clothing (i.e., fabric, denim, leather, etc.) at minimum distance of 100 meters.
This would painfully vaporise the outer layer of skin – rather than burning it will be turned into gas.
Using the different effect would allow operators to control crowds or enemies, first warning them before using the higher settings.
The documentation for the project says it will ‘have direct application to many other U.S. Government agencies as well as civilian law enforcement.
‘The Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection also desire this full spectrum of effects capability.
‘The ability to non-lethally interdict a threatening person or persons has utility in many security and crowd control applications to include several municipal applications.’
The plan is for SCUPLS to be mounted on a small vehicle, such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).
The design phase should be completed in 2019, after which a prototype will be built and tested.