Times of London cites a report that Chinese forces used a non-lethal microwave weapon to drive Indian soldiers from the two hilltops that occupied Ladakh in an ongoing border dispute. If this is correct, it would mark the first time such weapons have been used in action everywhere. However, the Indian Army has denied the reports, with an official Twitter account stating that the News is FAKE.
The claims were made by Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. Jin claimed that after fifteen minutes of microwave attack the Indian troops were forced to retreat and that the weapons nicely solved the problem.
This type of weapon was originally developed by the U.S. Joint Directorate of Non-lethal Weapons in 2001, and known as Active Denial. The large device mounted on the vehicle produces a high-frequency microwave beam two feet from an antenna like a satellite dish. Unlike longer wavelength radiation in a microwave oven, the millimeter waves used for Active Denial have only very shallow penetration. They cause a painful burning sensation by heating the outer surface of the skin make a depth of about 1/64th of an inch. The pain is strong enough to elicit a repulsive response, a reflective and irresistible need to get out of the beam which no one has been able to withstand during trials but does not cause lasting damage. (Some tests caused small heat bubbles, but these were rare.)
The US introduced an early version of the Active Denial system in Afghanistan but never used it in action, largely out of fear of bad advertising. Irrigating civilians or rioting prisoners in the microwave is not a good sight. Plans to use the device at a correctional facility in California were also thwarted. Recently local authorities have sought the gun on the Mexican border and to disperse the black life protests in Washington DC, which were both rejected. The U.S. has never used Active Denial technology in action, but the Pentagon continues to develop a more compact version of the sold-out state pending its acceptance at some point.
There is no doubt that China now possesses technology. In 2014 a Chinese company showed off its version, another vehicle-mounted system like the WB-1 Anti-Riot system, but there was no indication that this ever went into production.
Chinese military analysts have recently suggested that non-lethal electromagnetic weapons could be a means of exerting pressure on conflict zones like the South China Sea without escalating into a shooting war. This would include various blocking devices and weapons which damage or damage the electronics, as well as technologies such as Active Denial. Such technology would obviously be applicable in border disputes with India.
However, the Indian military had emphatically denied that the microwave incident occurred, instead of using such a controversial weapon, with effects that many critics have compared to torture. On the other hand, if their bodies have escaped under a microwave attack, they may not want to admit the incident.
Another issue is that the effects Jin describes he says those who are affected can not stand up and start vomiting are not consistent with the known effects of Active Denial established through 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 another physical principle, perhaps something like the Electron Magnetic Interruption Control (EPIC) device researched by the Pentagon in the early 2000s. It uses microwaves to vibrate small sensory hairs on the inner ear, upsetting balance and causing dizziness and disorientation. EPIC research seems to have been canceled at an early stage, and such technology is far less advanced than Active Denial. It is understood that there is a connection to the alleged microwave attacks on US diplomatic staff in China and Cuba causing a variety of symptoms, but this is highly speculative.
More details of the alleged incident may be revealed, although if the PLA possesses such a weapon they may wish to keep it under cover: the surprise and confusion of being struck by an invisible ray of pain can be important factors. If the targets realize that they can avoid it simply by 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 shooting warfare, is a 21st featurerr century. The Chinese can now think they have the weapon to win it.
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