Kirtland and Directed Energy Weapons
The main military base in Albuquerque is Kirtland Air Force Base. It is located next to the Albuquerque International Airport. It hosts the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was previously Phillips Laboratory until 1997 when it was merged into the Air Force Research Laboratory as the Space Vehicles and Directed Energy Directorates. Before that it was simply the Weapons Laboratory. Here is how the Directed Energy Directorate describe themselves:
“The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, N.M. is the U.S. Air Force’s center of expertise in the range of technologies required for high-energy lasers, high-power microwaves, high-power millimeter waves and advanced optics. Associated technologies include optical imaging and communication technologies and modeling, simulation and effects studies. As the technical expert, the directorate also provides independent assessment and analysis of directed energy concepts for multiple Air Force customers. The directorate has a space optical site and high performance computing center on the island of Maui, Hawaii. “
Directed energy weapons include lasers and high powered microwave weapons. One of the most well known is the Active Denial Technology (ADT), which used a 2 meter dish that is scanned at individuals or across a crowd. It has a heating effect on the body. It is touted as “non-lethal, for peacekeeping or riot control at relatively long-range – possibly from low-flying aircraft.” Despite tests done, the safety and long-term effects of these beams to individuals is in doubt.
Along with the Air Force, the Marines and other sections of the military are interested in directed energy weapons for their own purposes. Directed energy weapons such as microwaves are touted as “non-lethal” weapons. The Marines have their Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate based in Quantico, Virginia. The Marines development is called the Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS), mounted on a vehicle such as a Humvee, and touted for its flexibility. It can also be used on ships and aircraft.
The new weapons have a “repel” effect in tha they supposedly do not inflict permanent harm. These weapons will be used more as the military takes on more policing mechanisms in their long-term occupations. They will also be used more as the military engages in more urban warfare, fighting more non-state actors, and engage in asymmetrical warfare.
It was rumored that high-powered microwave weapons would be used extensively in Iraq. Aviation Week and Space Technology said in August 2002 stated as much.
There were two teams from the Air Force Research Laboratory working on the projects: The Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland, which handled the technical development and testing; and the Human Effectiveness Direcorate at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, which handled the biological effects research. It was jointly funded by the JNLWD and the AFRL with $40 million spent between 1991 and 2001.
There are three contractors that were working on the project. Raytheon AET in Rancho Cucamonga CA, the systems integrator; Communications and Power Industries (CPI) in Palo Alto CA, the source developer; and Veridian Engineering in San Antonio TX, doing the biological effects research.
Other military bases involved are as follows:
-Air Force Protection Battle Lab, Lackland AFB, Texas
-Marine Warfighting Lab, Quantico VA
-US Special Operations Command, MacDill AFB, Florida
-Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field FL
-Air Force Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, which would manage the acquisition of VMADS.
Critics include John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a longtime watchdog of the military. Microwave News editor Louis Slesin said that Air Force set in the 1990’s a safety threshold of 10 milliwatts per square centimeter when little data was available.
John Alexander is the author of Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in 21st Century Warfare. He is also a retired colonel and directed non-lethal weapons development at Los Alamos National Laboratories. He stated that the promise of directed energy weapons does not materialize. The weapons also suffer from unpredictability
Air Force Col. Eileen Walling, who wrote a paper in 2000 on these weapons, says to be effective the weapons need to be rugged and small which is technically difficult and challenging.
Yet they will continue to develop these weapons for future warfare. When resistance becomes impossible tyranny becomes more inevitable.
“Marines Ready to Begin Futuristic Energy Wave Weapon Field Tests.” Aerospace Daily. March 5, 2001.
Hecht, Jeff. “Microwave Beam Weapon to Disperse Crowds.” New Scientist. October 29, 2001. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1470-microwave-beam-weapon-to-disperse-crowds.html
Edmonson, George. “Super-Secret Microwave Weapons May Be Used in Iraq.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. August 15, 2001. http://www.seattlepi.com/national/82658_micro15.shtml