The Defense Department is developing a new non-lethal direct energy weapon that it claims can stop any vehicle without harming its passengers or causing damage.
The new weapon is being developed by the Defense Department’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD) for force protection, such as bolstering defenses at military bases, according to Defense One. The system could also potentially be used by local police departments in the future.
The weapon works by targeting high-powered microwaves at a vehicle’s engine. The microwaves interfere with the electronics of the vehicle, which could be a car, truck, boat, etc., and jams the engine control unit. According to Defense One, the jamming causes the control unit to reboot again and again, which stalls the engine and effectively keeps the vehicle in place.
The act of jamming the electronics should not cause permanent damage or harm to the vehicle or its occupants, though you have to imagine turning off a moving vehicle suddenly would have some possible implications.
The device, called the Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper by the team at JNLWD, requires a lot of power, which is to be sourced from a 400-pound gas-powered turbine engine that generates 300 kilowatts, according to Defense One.
Two versions of the jamming device are being developed. The smaller version can be fitted into the bed of a pickup truck with a range of 50 meters, or 164 feet, and the larger version will be stationary, three-times as large and capable of a range of a few hundred meters.
The development program takes delivery of the new turbine generator in September and is working to have a prototype ready next year. Below is Defense Department video of high-powered microwave targeting of various vehicles, via Patrick Tucker of Defense One.
Update: This article’s headline was updated to reflect that older vehicles lacking electronics that control engine function are less likely to be effected.