India disputes declare China routed its troops utilizing microwave blasters – Forbes
The Times of London cited a report that Chinese forces used a non-lethal microwave weapon to evict Indian soldiers from two hills they occupied in an ongoing border dispute in Ladakh. If this is correct, this will be the first time such weapons have been in use anywhere. However, the Indian army has rejected the reports. An official Twitter account says: “The news is FAKE.”
The allegations were made by Jin Canrong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. Jin claimed that after fifteen minutes of microwave attack, Indian troops were forced to retreat and that the guns “solved the problem wonderfully” by taking the positions without a shot being fired.
A US Marine Corps truck with a palletized version of the Active Denial System, a non-lethal weapon … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
This type of weapon was originally developed by the United States’ Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in 2001 and is known as Active Denial. The large vehicle-mounted device generates a beam of high-frequency microwaves two meters opposite an antenna like a satellite dish. In contrast to the longer-wave radiation in a microwave oven, the millimeter waves used for Active Denial only have a very low penetration. They cause a painful burning sensation by heating the outer surface of the skin to a depth of about 1/64 of an inch. The pain is severe enough to provoke a rejection response, a reflexive and irresistible need to get out of the ray that no one has been able to withstand in tests, but which does not cause permanent harm. (Some tests produced small heat bubbles, but these were rare.)
The US used an early version of the active denial system in Afghanistan, but never used it in action, mostly out of fear of bad advertising. Irradiating civilians or pestering prisoners with microwaves is not good looks. Plans to use the device in a California correctional facility have also been dropped. More recently, local authorities have requested the gun at the Mexican border and broke up protests against Black Lives Matters in Washington DC, both of which were rejected. The US has never used active denial technology in action, but the Pentagon continues to develop a more compact, as-sold version in the expectation that it will eventually be acceptable.
There is no doubt that China now has the technology. In 2014 a Chinese company showed its own version, a vehicle-mounted system other than the WB-1 Anti-Riot System, but there was no evidence that it ever went into production.
Chinese military analysts recently suggested that non-lethal electromagnetic weapons could be a means of applying pressure in conflict areas like the South China Sea without escalating into a gunfighting war. These include various jamming devices and weapons that interfere with or damage electronics, as well as technologies such as active denial. Such a technology would obviously be applicable in the border dispute with India.
However, the Indian Army had flatly denied that the microwave incident occurred rather than playing the use of such a questionable weapon, with implications that many critics had compared to torture. However, if their troops fled under a microwave attack, they may not want to acknowledge the incident.
Another problem is that the effects described by Jin – he says that those affected “couldn’t get up” and vomited – do not match the known effects of Active Denial, which have been determined by many thousands of tests. All US tests show that active denial causes short-term warming and nothing else.
However, it is possible that China has a microwave weapon based on a different physical principle, possibly the EPIC (Electromagnetic Personnel Interdiction Control) device researched by the Pentagon in the early 2000s. Microwaves are used to vibrate tiny sensory hairs in the inner ear, disrupt balance, and cause dizziness and disorientation. EPIC research appears to have stopped prematurely, and this technology is far less advanced than Active Denial. It may be linked to the alleged “microwave attacks” on US diplomatic personnel in China and Cuba, which are causing a variety of symptoms. However, this is highly speculative.
Further details of the alleged incident may become known. However, if the PLA does have such a weapon, it may want to keep it under wraps: the surprise and confusion of being hit by an invisible beam of pain can be important factors. If the targets realize that they can avoid this by simply hiding in a ditch or behind a rock, the weapon may not be as effective.
Gray zone warfare, in which conflict remains just below the level of gun warfare, is a feature of the 21st century. The Chinese might now think they have the weapon to win it.