The US military is working on a laser gun that uses noise to terrify its enemies. Dubbed the Laser-Induced Plasma Effect, or LIPE, the weapon would be able to produce 130-decibels of noise in a targeted area. The noise rivals that of a fighter jet, and according to US Department of Defense it would be enough to disperse large, unruly crowds during riots.
LIPE is the invention of the Non-Lethal Weapons Program, which is responsible for coming up with better solutions for crowd control. The weapon works by firing rapid, high energy bursts of lasers, each lasting around a nanosecond.
The energy from the lasers is relatively harmless to humans and objects, but it is enough to pull electrons from their atomic nuclei. This creates a blue ball of plasma, which, when fired with additional laser energy, can be transformed to a high-energy missile of noise.
“We’ve demonstrated it in the lab at very short ranges,” said David Law, the technology division chief at JNLWD told Defense One. Law said his goal is to test the weapon at 330 ft over the new few months, and provide a full report on its effectiveness by May next year. “But we haven’t been able to demonstrate it at even 330 ft. That’s … the next step.” Research and development of the weapon is expected to cost around $3 million.
This isn’t the first time that the US has turned to unconventional methods to control large crowds. In April, it emerged that police departments may be turning to a highly controversial method of dealing with civil unrest – stink bombs. Called “Skunk”, the foul-smelling liquid is famous for being used in Israel’s arsenal of weapons for crowd control. “Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face,” wrote Noah Browning for Reuters. “Your gag reflex goes off the charts and you can’t escape, because the nauseating stench persists for days.” Maryland-based group Mistral is now providing it to police departments in the United States, including at Ferguson. The company said that the US military has expressed an interest in Skunk, but has not yet placed an order.