Microwave weapons- Does it have any Conventional Use?

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Parvedge Haider

Although there was no definite proof, some of the medias tried to propagate that Chinese troops used ‘microwave’ weapons to force Indian soldiers to retreat by making them violently sick during a Himalayan stand-off[1][2]. The propagators referred Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University said during one of his presentations, China used a microwave weapon to retake land on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake in the Ladakh region[3]. According to India-China mutual deal, as none of the sides should use fire arms against each other in those regions, Professor Jin commented that Chinese forces cleared out Indian troops without violating a ban on gunfire along the disputed border.

Whether China used the Microwave weapons or not, there are gradual interest of many countries about this effective weapon.  This is one kind of electromagnetic weapon which creates effect on the human tissues and compel the target soldiers to vomit. U.S. used Microwave weapons as a part of ‘Active Denial System’ in Afghanistan but those were withdrawn without ever being used against human targets.

Although some devices are labeled as microwave weapons, the microwave range is commonly defined as being between 300 MHz and 300 GHz[4], which is within the RF range-these frequencies having wavelengths of 1 millimeter to 1 meter. At present the Microwave weapons those have been publicized by the military are as follows:

  • Active Denial System is a millimeter wave source that heats the water in a human target’s skin and thus causes incapacitating pain[5].
  • Vigilant Eagle is a proposed airport defense system that directs high-frequency microwaves towards any projectile that is fired at an aircraft[6].
  • Bofors HPM Blackout is a high-powered microwave weapon that is said to be able to destroy at short distance a wide variety of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic equipment and is purportedly non-lethal[7].
  • The effective radiated power (ERP) of the EL/M-2080 Green Pine radar makes it a hypothetical candidate for conversion into a directed-energy weapon, by focusing pulses of radar energy on target missiles[8].
  • Active electronically scanned array (AESA) is a type of phased array antenna, which is a computer-controlled array antenna in which the beam of radio waves can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antenna[9].
  • Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project is capable of incapacitating or damaging electronic systems by means of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse)[10].

Microwave weapons are one of the types of ‘Directed Energy Weapon (DEW)’ system. These weapons can effectively damage its target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves, and particle beams. Potential applications of this technology include weapons those target personnel, missiles, vehicles, and optical devices. According to this technology, the microwave weapons heat water molecules in the same way as the kitchen appliance, targeting water in the skin and causing increasing amounts of pain to the target from ranges of up to 0.6 miles away.

Some of the conventional military forces consider ‘Directed energy weapons’ as special tool due to its several advantages over conventional weaponry. These can be used discreetly; its radiation above and below the visible spectrum is invisible and does not generate sound. It operates perfectly in the flat trajectory that makes aim much more precise and extends the range to line-of-sight. Its lasers travel at light-speed and have near infinite range and are therefore suitable for use in space warfare. Laser weapons potentially eliminate many logistic problems in terms of ammunition supply, as long as there is enough energy to power them. Depending on several operational factors, directed-energy weapons may be cheaper to operate than conventional weapons in certain contexts. In general the ‘Directed energy weapons’ offer the following capabilities:

  • They have pinpoint accuracy.
  • They offer a low cost per use and maintenance.
  • They have a virtually unlimited magazine capacity.
  • They are simple to track, aim and shoot with sophisticated sensors.
  • They are less lethal if tuned properly.
  • They can operate in all weather conditions.
  • They can engage multiple targets.
  • They limit collateral damage.
  • Their energy travels at the speed of light.
  • Their energy can pass through walls at distances of hundreds of meters or even miles.
  • They are silent and offer plausible deniability of their use.

Microwave weapons are the direct means to damage or destroy adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel. It involves the use of Directed energy weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction of adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel, or to determine, exploit, reduce, or prevent hostile use of the EMS through damage, destruction, and disruption. Considering its enormous advantages, ‘Microwave weapons’ might take a leading role in the future warfare.

[1] China ‘used secret microwave pulse weapon to cook Indian soldiers alive’ and force them into retreat in Himalayan border battle, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8957019/China-used-secret-microwave-pulse-weapon-Indian-soldiers.html.

[2] India has dismissed as a fake report, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/microwave-weapons-india-china-7056441/

[3] China allegedly used a secret ‘microwave weapon’ on enemy troops, https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/china-allegedly-used-a-secret-microwave-weapon-on-enemy-troops/news-story/dbd5c6768825a4dfea5ffe7a774722f3 .

[4] Microwave: Electromagnetic Spectrum, https://byjus.com/physics/electromagnetic-spectrum-microwave/ .

[5] The Active Denial System: What Is It And What Does It Do?, https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/the-active-denial-system-test-what-is-it-what-does-it-do.html#:~:text=The%20active%20denial%20system%20is%20a%20non-lethal%2C%20directed-energy%2C,to%20provide%20a%20very%20hot%2C%20skin%20surface-burning%20sensation.

[6] Vigilant Eagle, https://www.globalsecurity.org/security/systems/vigilant-eagle.htm .

[7] Bofors HPM Blackout, https://climateviewer.com/2018/07/bae_pdf_bofors_hpm_blackout.pdf .

[8] EL/M-2080 Green Pine, https://military.wikia.org/wiki/EL/M-2080_Green_Pine .

[9] Active electronically scanned array, https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Active_electronically_scanned_array.

[10] Counter-Electronics High-Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), https://www.militaryperiscope.com/weapons/missilesrocketsbombs/anti-radar/counter-electronics-high-powered-microwave-advanced-0.

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