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Non-Lethal Weapons and Equipment

Recent U.S. military involvement in peace operations underscores the need to field non-lethal weapon systems. During these operations, it is critical to prevent aggressors from carrying out disruptive activities such as rioting, looting, and harassing, threatening, or attacking individuals or opposition groups. "A force armed only with traditional military weapons normally has only two options for enforcing compliance: threats of deadly force and application of deadly force. This limitation creates a critical vulnerability which belligerents may quickly discern and use to their advantage. Non-lethal capabilities provide a wider range of options which augment traditional means of deadly force, but do not replace them."1

Non-Lethal Weapons and Equipment Currently Available

Soldiers trained in warfighting and the application of "deadly force" were deployed to Bosnia to establish a stable environment where peace could be nurtured among the former warring factions. In a peacekeeping mission, such as Operation JOINT GUARD, soldiers quelled riots and civil disturbances, situations that usually involve violence. In Bosnia, it was essential for soldiers to know how to react to angry mobs that tried to disrupt their peacekeeping role by throwing rocks and shouting insults at them.

Any protest has the potential of escalating into a very serious situation. However, military restraint is necessary to sustain the credibility of the peacekeeping force. Graduated responses are needed by the peacekeeping force to control crowds. This requires training. Soldiers in Bosnia trained on new "non-lethal munitions" that were still under development, including the Sponge grenade that fires a multiple pellet grenade from an M203 rifle. Although the technology is quite new, the need for its use is immediate. The soldiers' goal was to induce the crowds to back off (using the least amount of force necessary to avoid injuring or killing civilians) so the peacekeeping force could gain control of the situation.

The Sponge grenade is designed to knock down a person up to 30 meters away when hit in the chest or abdomen. The stinger and foam baton round disperses a shot group similar to that of a shotgun. The Sponge grenade should be aimed at one individual, such as the principal instigator or leader of the mob inciting the disturbance. This non-lethal weapon is designed to knock an individual down or off balance so that he can be captured by a riot control "snatch-and-grab" team. (This TTP is described in detail in Chapter 4.) The rounds are designed to be fired from 10-30 meters away as the photo below illustrates.

Non-lethal munitions provide a graduated response to a hostile act. The M203 sponge grenade will easily knock over a demonstrator. However, soldiers who used the grenade in training commented that the grenade could easily injure or possibly kill someone if it hit a person in the head. Although it is not intended to harm protestors or demonstrators, it would be difficult for a hostile individual to tell he is being engaged by a non-lethal weapon since the sponge grenade is fired from a weapon designed for lethal use. These munitions have yet to be employed in a riot. The concern is that the grenades, when fired, could lead to panic or increased violence in the crowd. If a demonstrator has a weapon, for instance, and is engaged by a soldier using his rifle to fire a sponge grenade, the demonstrator might return fire from his lethal weapon. The graduated response is most effective when the hostile mob knows that the line of lethality is not being crossed.

Types of Non-Lethal Weapons

Tactical commanders should be aware of the types of non-lethal technologies that are being developed. Federal projects involved in developing non-lethal weapons include:

  • Anti-traction Technology: Teflon-type environmentally neutral lubricants that make footholds or traction exceedingly difficult. A product of this type can be used to deny access to areas or cover a unit's flank.
  • Sticky Foam: Extremely adhesive foam that immobilizes individuals. This foam can be used to subdue an individual or reinforce obstacles.
  • Anesthetics: Tranquilizers, dispensed with gas or darts, that could put people to sleep.
  • Infrasound: Low-frequency sound generators that incapacitate individuals by causing nausea, disorientation, and bowel spasms.
  • Microwave Transmitters: Directionally oriented devices that heat skin to an unbearable degree as people approach them.
  • Lasers: Man-portable and vehicle-mounted eye-safe personnel flashers.
  • Electrical Shockers: Stand-off, hand-launched, electrical shock projectiles.
  • Pyrotechnics: Rapid-bloom smoke grenades and enhanced smoke grenades.
  • Vortex Weapons: The vortex gun fires a doughnut-shaped shock wave, powerful enough to knock people down. The gun can also be filled with a riot-control agent (pepper spray) that not only knocks the person down but also produces a chemical irritant.

Selecting Non-Lethal Weapons and Munitions

In his article, Non-Lethal Force: The Slippery Slope to War?, F. M. Lorenz provides the criteria for selection of non-lethal systems. They are: availability, quantity, performance in the field, time required to train individuals with no previous experience in their employment, and the need to deliver the munitions using organic weapon systems.2

  • Availability. Soldiers in the field need non-lethal systems immediately. Most peace-operation deployments are reactions to a crisis. Non-lethal systems need to be readily available with short lead times in requisition and delivery.

  • Quantity. Companies that manufacture non-lethal systems normally do not keep large inventories of these systems on hand. The market for non-lethal systems does not justify maintaining large inventories. Therefore, when selecting non-lethal systems, planners must consider the quantity required for the entire force to support a peace operation to ensure that manufacturers can meet that requirement.

  • Performance in the field. Planners should consider the environment in which the peace operation is expected to occur. Some non-lethal systems work better in some environments than others. For example, an anti-traction lubricant may work extremely well on an asphalt road but poorly on a dirt road. Planners should determine the best overall non-lethal system that will support the types of operations that troops are expected to perform.

  • Time required to train individuals with no previous experience in the employment of non-lethal weapons. Most peace operations require quick responses by deploying forces. Often, there is insufficient time available to train soldiers on non-lethal systems that are extremely complex or difficult to use. It would be inappropriate to place a soldier in front of a large, hostile crowd with a weapon system in which he is not properly trained or in which he has little confidence.

  • Time required to deliver non-lethal munitions using organic weapon systems. Riot situations in peace operations can quickly turn from a non-lethal situation to a lethal one. Soldiers need to be able to quickly transition from non-lethal to lethal as the situation dictates.

Army Non-Lethal Weapon (NLW) Plans and Programs for the Future

The following overview of the new system development plan to assist soldiers as peace operations are executed is provided for reference and information.


Over the last nine years, peace operations in Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia placed demanding challenges on our soldiers and leaders. The presence of non-combatants and civilians in those operations required our troops to use imaginative techniques when executing missions to avoid endangering innocent bystanders. Having the right tools to execute missions in volatile and dangerous situations enhances the capability to succeed. Non-lethal weapons provide that enhanced capability.


Non-lethal weapons are defined as weapons that are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate personnel and material, while minimizing permanent injuries and fatalities or undesirable damage to property and the environment.

Core Capability Requirements

The following requirements, identified by warfighting CINCs, provide a framework for a Joint concept for non-lethal weapons. There are two categories: counter-personnel and counter-material. Counter-personnel capabilities help reduce risk of fatalities or serious casualties to non-combatants, as well as to friendly or opposition forces. Counter-material capabilities render equipment and facilities unusable without complete destruction.

Within the two categories, there are six functional areas. The counter-personnel category contains four functional areas: (1) crowd control; (2) incapacitation of personnel; (3) area denial to personnel; and (4) clearing facilities of personnel. The counter-material category has two functional areas: (1) area denial to vehicles, and (2) disabling vehicles, vessels, and facilities.

Army Proponents for Non-Lethal Weapons

The U. S. Army Infantry Center is the proponent for tactical applications, and the U.S. Military Police School is the proponent for law enforcement applications.

The Current Plan

In the near future, when a unit is notified to deploy and conduct a non-traditional military operation, such as humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping, it will draw and use a Non-lethal Capability Set (NLCS) to enhance its force protection and to reduce noncombatant casualties. The following paragraphs give a brief description of a NLCS and how the Army plans to use and train on this set.


An NLCS will contain the weapon systems, munitions, and equipment required to satisfy most operational requirements for an enhanced capability to apply non-lethal force. It is designed to augment lethal forces and will be employed in a manner that will incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities or permanent injury or damage to property and the environment. The NLCS is designed to support a battalion task force. A 200-man company, reinforced with support personnel, was selected as a conceptual basis for employment of the components. The set contents can be divided into four categories:

  • Individual Protective Equipment. These items include face and body shields (ballistic and riot-control types), shin and knee guards, and other protective garments as they become available.

  • Weapons. These items include a shotgun, riot batons, Individual Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper Spray (OC) or M36 CR Dispensers, Riot Control Agent dispersers, restraining devices, and a variety of non-lethal munitions.

  • Enhancement Devices. These are devices, such as bullhorns and voice-amplifying devices (for protective masks), to increase command and control capabilities. They also include high-intensity searchlights and devices that can be used at local checkpoints for area denial.

  • Training Devices/Allocations. Each capability includes training devices and training ammunition. Training ammunition is the minimum necessary to conduct live-fire qualification or familiarization for each ammunition type. Since many of the operations that require non-lethal capabilities have gone on for extended periods, these sets provide training ammunition for three separate unit rotations before training stocks require replenishment or munition stocks need rotation.

The following illustrations depict some of the equipment that the NLCS will contain:

Non-Ballistic Riot Face Shield/Ballistic Face Shield. This riot face shield (size 0.15mm or 0.25mm) provides individual soldiers improved facial protection from thrown objects.

Non-Ballistic Riot Body Shield. The riot body shield provides individual soldiers improved protection from frontal, side, and overhead assault. (Size 24" x 48" x 4mm (Armadillo) or 24" x 48" x 6mm (Jamco)/Ballistic Body Shield, Size 24" x 36" with 4" x 16" View-Port (Protect or ABA).)

Non-Ballistic Riot Shin Guard/Ballistic Shin Guard. Riot shin guards provide individual soldiers with improved protection from thrown objects. The shin guards are lightweight and standard black in color. The ballistic shin guard provides protection against small arms fire up to 9mm FMJ (124 grain bullet at 1,400 FPS). It is primarily used by Special Reaction Teams (SRTs) in forced entry scenarios and for selected MOUT operations.

Portable Bullhorn. This is a critical communication enhancement device for conducting crowd-control tactics. The bullhorn facilitates communication with crowds in conjunction with Linguist/PSYOP support and assists with communication of commands to troops engaged in crowd control by projecting over crowd noise.

Individual Voice Amplification System. This is also a critical communication enhancement device for conducting crowd-control tactics using Riot-Control Agents while wearing a protective mask. This device facilitates oral communications and increases the user's ability to communicate using radios and other devices.

Individual Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Dispenser w/Carrier or M36 Individual CS Dispenser. These individual Riot Control Agent dispensers are intended primarily for self defense or to keep rioters out of arms reach of soldiers conducting crowd-control tactics or engaged in missions where a noncombatant threat exists. For example, OC can be carried and used in areas where theft of weapons and equipment is a common noncombatant threat.

Mid-Sized Riot-Control Dispenser OC/CS. This Riot Control Agent dispenser is intended for employment by formations conducting crowd control, law enforcement and internment/resettlement operations. It is lightweight, is operated by one individual, and is easily refilled/pressurized with currently available maintenance equipment (or 2 and 5-ton truck compressors). It provides a small unit self-defense capabilities from large crowds out to 10 meters (more range is possible based on wind). It also provides an offensive capability to clear crowds from critical areas (toward preplanned escape routes).

Lightweight Disposable Restraints. Also known as "Flex-Cuffs," large numbers of these disposable restraints can be carried by individual soldiers and used to immobilize individuals. These restraints usually need to be cut off to be removed and come with a safe cutting device. They can also be cut off with utility shears. A reusable red-colored training device is available.

Sting Ball/Stun Grenade. This is a Commercial, Off-the Shelf (COTS) item that provides a hand-thrown, non-lethal stun effect against hostile crowds. It gives soldiers engaged in patrolling, convoy, or crowd control a non-lethal capability to break contact, enforce a buffer zone (stand-off distance) with a violent crowd, or clear an area of a violent crowd. It operates like a standard hand grenade, detonating a few seconds after the spoon is released. It dispenses rubber balls in a circular pattern of approximately 50 feet.

Twelve-gauge Aerial Diversionary Device Round. This round gives soldiers involved in convoy operations or crowd control a multi-shot, non-lethal capability to distract individuals or crowds. In crowd control, it can be used to provide a warning shot by delivering a flash-bang projectile over the heads of a violent or potentially violent crowd (ideally this is fired in conjunction with other distraction devices and troop maneuvers) to allow other troop formations to maneuver to more advantageous positions. The round is designed for ranges of 75-100 meters. To avoid injuring people, the round should be aimed about 5 meters above the heads of a crowd and not be fired in enclosed areas.

Twelve-gauge Non-Lethal Area Target Cartridge. The area target cartridge round gives soldiers a capability to stun/deter two or three people without penetrating the body by delivering a strong blow to the body. This munition fills a wide range of possible non-lethal weapons applications. In crowd control, it gives soldiers a multi-shot non-lethal capability to break contact or enforce a buffer zone (stand-off distance). It can also provide similar capabilities to law enforcement operations, internment/resettlement facilities and U.S. military detention facilities. The round is fired at center mass of an adult subject at ranges between 10 - 30 meters. Shots fired at subjects closer than 10 meters can cause injury. Beyond 30 meters, the projectile loses accuracy and may no longer have the velocity required to stun or deter an individual.

40mm Crowd Dispersal Round (Area). The 40mm Crowd Dispersal Round, like the 12-guage round, gives soldiers a capability to stun individuals without penetrating the body by delivering a strong blow to the body. This munition fills a wide range of possible non-lethal weapons applications. It gives soldiers a non-lethal capability to break contact, enforce a buffer zone (stand-off distance) with a violent crowd, or clear an area of a violent crowd. It can also provide similar capabilities to law enforcement operations, internment/resettlement facilities and U.S. military detention facilities. The round is fired at center mass of an adult subject at ranges between 10 - 30 meters away. Shots fired at subjects closer than 10 meters may cause injury. Beyond 30 meters, the projectile loses accuracy and may no longer have the velocity to stun or deter an individual.

40mm Sponge Round (Point). This round also gives soldiers a capability to stun individuals without penetrating the body by delivering a strong blow to the body. It also gives soldiers in convoy or crowd-control formations a non-lethal capability to break contact, enforce a buffer zone (stand-off distance) with a violent crowd, or stun an individual threat for possible detention by snatch teams. It also provides similar capabilities to law enforcement operations, internment and resettlement facilities and U.S. military detention facilities. The round is fired at center of mass of an adult subject at ranges between 10 - 50 meters. Shots fired at subjects closer than 10 meters may cause injury.

Training Strategies

An NLCS is a prepositioned stock that will satisfy specific mission requirements. Because of this contingency method of allocation, and the special characteristics of some non-lethal components, there will be special training requirements for soldiers: User Training, Train-the-Trainer Training, and Institutional Training.

  • User Training. User training is provided through a Multi-Media Training Support Package (MMTSP) and is supplemented by a Mobile Training Team to conduct Train-the-Trainer certification. The MMTSP will be drawn with the NLCS and will also be available through one of the Army training websites to ensure widest possible dissemination and rapid updating.

  • Train-the-Trainer Training. Train-the-trainer personnel can license or certify soldiers in the use of specific NLCS components and certify unit trainers in small unit TTPs. Personnel operating special support equipment should be licensed on their automated DA Form 348. Train-the-Trainer training will be accomplished through an approved Train-the-Trainer course. Currently, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) has the only Non-lethal Weapon Instructor Course located at the U.S. Army Military Police School (USAMPS), Fort McClellan, AL. There are plans to make this a joint course in the future. In addition to this course, the plan is to formalize NLCS Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) to meet Army training requirements on an emergency basis. Units requiring a Non-lethal weapon MTT will have to submit a request to Headquarters, Department of the Army (DA) who, if approved, will forward the tasking to Headquarters, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

  • Institutional Training. Soldiers should be aware of non-lethal (NL) programs as part of their professional development. There should be some general instruction on NLCS capabilities at the service schools, particularly for those branches (Infantry and Military Police) most likely to employ NLCS. The USAMPS currently provides instructions on NL programs at its service schools and the USAIS is looking at the requirements to provide it in the future.

The Army is fielding five NLCS in FY00. By FY05, the Army plans to have a total of 30 fielded.

Currently Funded Acquisition Programs

There are seven funded acquisition programs under development. As these items are developed and fielded, they will be included into the NLCS or used in conjunction with the NLCS. The funded programs are:

1. Modular Crowd Control Munition (MCCM). MCCM is a non-lethal variant of the current Claymore mine. The lethal fragmentary payload is replaced with numerous rubber ball blunt-impact munitions for use in crowd control.

2. Portable Vehicle Immobilization System (PVIS). PVIS is a pre-emplaced capture system designed to stop a 7,500-pound vehicle traveling at speeds up to 45 miles per hour without causing permanent injury to the occupants.

3. NL Crowd Dispersal Cartridge (NLCDC). The NLCDC is intended to fire a non-lethal cartridge from the M203 40mm Grenade Launcher for crowd control. It will provide the warfighter with a means to strike a targeted individual with a direct fire, low hazard, and non-shrapnel-producing blunt-trauma round from 15 to 30 meters.

4. Bounding NL Munition (BNLM). BNLM is intended to be a non-lethal tactical area denial munition for site security and perimeter defense. The payloads produce an audible alert signal to friendly forces within a range of 200 meters.

5. Canister-Launched Area Denial System (CLADS). CLADS provide friendly forces a rapidly dispensed, non-lethal area denial capability. The CLADS launcher can be used to deliver a variety of payloads, including BNLMs.

6. The 66mm Non-Lethal Munitions. The 66mm Non-lethal Munitions provide a short-range, indirect fire, crowd control/area denial non-lethal capability that can be employed from the Light Vehicle Obscurant Smoke System (LVOSS). The two types of munitions are: (a) Blunt Trauma with 450 32-caliber rubber balls inside a rubber housing attached to a metal base, and (b) Distraction (flash-bang) device made of a polyurethane material which produces audible and visual distractions.

7. Foam Applications. Foam applications provide the capability to temporarily delay access to building openings in MOUT operations and temporarily disable selected equipment, vehicles, and weapons.

Technology Investments Programs (TIPs)

TIPs are initiatives (one to two year) that overcome identified shortcomings in a core capability during a short life-cycle. They stimulate governmental laboratories, industry, and academia to work together to solve problems. They generate new technological concepts and solutions that meet current or future NL mission needs and requirements. Seven TIPs are currently funded:

1. Pulsed Chemical Laser. The objective is to create a flash-bang effect on a target with varying amounts of energy. The effect is equivalent to delivering a massless, blunt-shrapnel impact on the surface of the target.

2. Frangible Mortar Casing. The objective is to develop an NL mortar round based on the existing M821 120mm high explosive round. The non-lethal weapon round flight performance should closely match the aerodynamics, ballistics, firing tables, and propellant loads of rounds in the inventory.

3. NL 81mm Mortar. The objective of this program is to develop and demonstrate an NL 81mm mortar round capable of delivering long range NL payloads. The desired effect is to cause disorientation and distraction among a crowd in a targeted area.

4. Microcapsules. The objective is to determine the effectiveness of encapsulating NL chemicals with respect to delivery. It will offer significantly improved ways of delivering chemical agents similar to the ones already being used, but which are crudely delivered.

5. Airborne Tactical Laser. The objective is to conduct a feasibility study to determine effectiveness of an airborne tactical laser to conduct NL engagements. The payoff will be in providing stand-off ranges when conducting NL engagements against material targets.

6. Overhead Chemical Agent Dispersal System (OCADS). The objective is to demonstrate the ability to rapidly disperse NL chemicals over large areas. The OCADS provides a flash-bang effect when the chemical agents are rapidly dispersed. It can be used for crowd control or to provide a remotely generated protective barrier.

7. Non-Lethal Weapon-Guided Projectile. The objective is to conduct a feasibility study to determine possible usage to include payload tradeoff analysis and effective studies. In addition, this effort will explore the feasibility of applying guided projectile technologies to provide long-range delivery and deployment of non-lethal weapons.

At the conclusion of each TIP period, the decision to keep or terminate the program will be made by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) of the U.S. Marine Corps. The JNLWD was established as the DOD agency to oversee the funding of Joint, non-lethal weapons requirements and programs.


1. Headquarters, Department of the Army, Field Manual 90-40, Multiservice Procedures for the Tactical Employment of Non-Lethal Weapons, Final Coordination Draft, August 1997, Washington, DC, USGPO, p 13.
2. Lorenz, F. M., "Non-Lethal Force: The Slippery Slope to War?," Parameters, Vol XXVI, No. 3, Autumn, 1996, pp 53-54.

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