NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

07 Nov. 2011

Non-lethal weapons – the latest technology in defence products

The NATO-sponsored 2011 North American Technology Demonstration (NATD) held in October in Ottawa, Canada saw the largest-ever demonstration of non-lethal weapons in the world.

A growing number of commanders in the field are requesting smaller-scale weaponry to include non-lethal capabilities. These weapons are less damaging to infrastructure, buildings, surroundings and, of course, civilians. They are also an indication of good will on the part of soldiers as they interact with locals when carrying out operations.

Gábor Iklódy, NATO Assistant Secretary General for NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division explains, “Developing non-lethal capabilities is a very important part of NATO’s response, both in different battlefields as part of NATO’s ongoing and future operations and also NATO’s counter-terrorism efforts. And through which NATO can actually achieve its objectives in a way that spares human life and property too.”

Weapons that preserve life

As manufacturers develop new technologies to produce weapons which meet these demands some companies already produce only non-lethal weapons, preferring to focus on the goal of preserving lives.

Kevin Williams works for one such company: “We feel it is very important to be able to provide technologies that resolve conflict in dangerous situations without ending unnecessarily the lives of the interactors of that conflict.,” he says.

Kevin is convinced of the need for non-lethal weapons in modern conflicts. “You create a nasty little spiral everytime a death occurs. Technology like this allows you to break that spiral,” he explains. “More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to be able to arrest or to detain individuals that might have important information for commanders on movement of insurgents or future plans. And if you kill somebody that information is lost. So there are several reasons for wanting to be able to protect human life, beyond just the moral reason,” he says.

Still a dangerous deterrent

Companies from across the world participate in the NATD, showcasing defence products from small arms to military equipment and pyrotechnics. One exhibitor demonstrates a pepper-spray gun whose effects can be quickly reversed by simply applying water, while another explains the benefits of an automatic machine gun that can fire 150 rounds of 6mm plastic pellets per second.

Kevin is at the NATD to showcase his company’s latest self-defence products, including a wireless projectile designed to deliver the taser effect from a distance.

Although it only incapacitates for about thirty seconds when it attaches to someone and an electrical signal creates an immobilizing effect, Kevin has no illusions about the nature of his product. After all, a human electromuscular incapacitation round that is designed to be fired from a low speed 40mm grenade launcher sounds terrifying.

“Hopefully it does look terrifying. There’s certainly a measure of deterrence for a tool like this. I certainly wouldn’t want to get hit by it. It is not designed to be risk free. It is going to hurt and it is designed to do that,” Kevin says.

While the physical incapacitation of non-lethal weaponry is intended to be only temporary, it is clear these products on show are still dangerous arms that can play an important role in conflict or other high-risk situations.

Last updated: 08-Nov-2011 15:59

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