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Non-Lethal Weapons

US forces increasingly operate in challenging environments known as military operations other than war. These operations include humanitarian assistance, military support to civil authorities, peacekeeping and peacemaking operations, and non-combatant evacuations. US Forces are involved in support and stability operations (SASO) throughout the globe. Maintaining and establishing law and order, reducing civil disturbances and responding to varied levels of threat have become mission assignments. Countering these with varied levels of force become recurring tasks for military forces involved in joint multinational and interagency operations.

Non-Lethal munitions applications will be used by military personnel to apply the minimum force necessary while performing missions of crowd control and area security at key facilities around the globe. These devices will aid military forces/commanders in situations of hostages rescue, capture of criminals, terrorists, or control of other adversarial persons.

Malodorants and irritants are two types of nonlethal weapons designed to temporarily mark, incapacitate, or drive away persons from an area. Environmental assessments have been performed on the malodorants Bathroom Malodor and Who-Me?, and the irritants Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), CS-Mace, and CN-Mace.

A running gear entanglement system (RGES) is proposed to protect Navy ships in port, and other waterside assets such as museums and marinas. The entanglement device will foul the propeller of unauthorized vessels attempting to approach restricted areas.

A pulsed-energy projectile (PEP) is under development that uses a chemical laser technology to produce a large flash, bang, and shock wave to temporarily disorient and incapacitate individuals in a crowd.

The advanced tactical laser (ATL) concept involves an infrared laser carried in an aircraft for air-to-ground strike missions, providing pinpoint accuracy and minimum damage.

Anti-traction material (ATM) is a very slippery, gel-like substance sprayed on ground surfaces to prevent access to areas by people and vehicles.

Nonlethal airburst munitions are 20mm weapons designed to emplace liquids, aerosols, powders and other objects at a precise location in space.

Thermobaric technology is a nonlethal weapon, in development, that causes extended flash, sound, temperature, and pressure conditions to disorient and/or temporarily incapacitate individuals.

The temporary discomfort and confusion generated by some of these Non-Lethal munitions provides the tactical team the few seconds necessary to exploit the situation by redirecting the actions of a targeted individual or group and enhances the ability to apprehend same. The shade of light green has been selected to be the ammunition color-coding for all Non-lethal ammunition components. Non-Lethal devices are intended to confuse, disorient, or momentarily distract potential threat persons. They are designed to produce only temporary incapacitation to either innocent bystander or threatening individuals.

Minor injuries can and will occur (bruises, stings, etc.) to individuals who are struck by payloads of Non-Lethal munitions. In fact, even if properly employed severe injury or death are still a possibility. Non-Lethal weapons shall not be required to have a zero probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries. However while complete avoidance of these effects is not guaranteed or expected, when properly employed, Non-Lethal weapons should significantly reduce them as compared with physically destroying the same target.

Non-lethal capabilities expand the number of options available to commanders confronting situations in which the use of deadly force is not the preferred response. Non-lethal capabilities provide flexibility by allowing forces to apply measured force with reduced risk of serious non-combatant casualties, but in a manner that provides force protection and effects compliance - ensuring the success of the military mission.

Political, diplomatic and economic demands dictate that future operations, where possible, minimize U.S. casualties while limiting collateral civilian casualties and collateral damage to civilian objects. Crowd control in conducting peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance missions is as likely a task for the Army as is destroying enemy armor and infantry forces in war.

The advent of an era when the military services were increasingly required to perform Operations Other Than War (OOTW) has led to the need for NLWs. In early 1995, USMC LtGen Anthony Zinni was charged with protecting the final withdrawal of UN forces from Somalia and explored the prospects of using NLW. LtGen Zinni asked for quick response to field a NLW capability. The US Marine Corps and the US Army teamed to provide available NLW technology for use in and around Mogadishu. Although the NLW effects were marginal, LtGen Zinni's aggressive support added credibility to the NLW effort.

General John J. Sheehan, USACOM Commander, spoke at the Non-Lethal Defense Conference II, which was held in Washington, DC on 07 Mar 96. In his speech given at the conference, General Sheehan examined the global requirements for use of non-lethal weapons and emphasized the necessity for those weapons as standard-issue military hardware. On 09 Jul 96, DoD Directive 3000.3 was issued. The directive established joint service organizational responsibilities and provided guidelines for the development and employment of non-lethal weapons. The directive designated the Commandant of the US Marine Corps as Executive Agent (EA) for the DoD Non-Lethal Weapons Program, with the responsibility of providing "...program recommendations and for stimulating and coordinating non-lethal weapons requirements."

The Commandant of the Marine Corps has been designated as the Executive Agent for the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) Program with the responsibility for providing program recommendations and for stimulating and coordinating Joint Non-Lethal Weapon requirements. As the Army's proponent lead for non-lethal weapons, the Infantry worked closely with the sister services and DoD to develop a coherent joint operational concept. The U.S. Army Military Police School (USAMPS, at Fort Leonard Wood, MO) is the designated single proponent for Army Non-Lethal Applications, effective 12 September 2000. USAMPS serves as the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's single voice for all developments and initiatives to field NL capabilities.

The Non-Lethal Capability Set (NLCS) is specifically designed to support Army units selected to participate in ground force operations where a non-lethal (NL) capability may be required. The components are specifically designed and primarily employed to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities or permanent injury to intended targets and collateral damage to property and the environment. The components are intended to enhance a unit's capability across the range of military operations; the NLCS is not intended to replace, but to augment currently fielded weapon systems and munitions. The NLCS will provide a significant increase in the capability of U.S. Forces to accomplish the objectives of military action in situations where use of lethal force is not the preferred or desired method of operation. However, when NL systems are used they will always be backed-up by a lethal system.

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Page last modified: 06-12-2011 16:54:00 ZULU