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New sonic weapon to iraq { March 9 2004 }

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US brings new weapon to Iraq
Tuesday 09 March 2004 11:59 AM GMT

The US military is about to add a controversial new weapon to its huge arsenal in Iraq.

But in contrast to other armaments, this one does not shoot or explode. It screams.

A defence contractor announced securing a million dollar deal to supply the First US Marine Expeditionary Force with a so-called Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD.

The manufacturer has borrowed some of its technology from modern pest-control devices that shoo away mice and other rodents with the help of ultrasound.

While LRAD can boom commands, it can also deliver a shrill 145-decibel tone over a distance of more than 300 metres, causing splitting headaches, pain, panic and even hearing loss.

The sound is about twice as powerful as the scream of a standard smoke detector. And earplugs will not be of any help.


Peter Dotto, a retired Marine Corps colonel who now works on non-lethal weapons at M2 Technologies, said the device was likely to be used for "crowd control, area denial of personnel including check point operations, and clearing buildings."

The loudspeaker is particularly effective in dispersing hostile demonstrations of the type witnessed in Iraq earlier this month or in driving resistance out without exposing US troops to hostile fire.

Pros and cons

The weapon has a powerful champion in US Senator Olympia Snowe, who said LRAD was going to afford the military "a new and dynamic non-lethal capability".

She made sure it was included in an $87 billion supplemental package approved last year to finance military operations and reconstruction projects in Iraq.

"I believe that our nation has an obligation to provide our men and women in uniform with the best resources possible."

But independent military expert and frequent Pentagon critic William Arkin said while the weapon could be effectively used to chase Usama bin Ladin out of a his bolthole, its use in Iraqi cities could harm the sick, elderly and children.

"The US is making a huge mistake by trying to quietly deploy a new pain-inducing weapon without first airing all of the legal, policy and human rights issues associated with it."


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