The van driver who killed 10 Toronto pedestrians on Monday showed that a terror technique that ISIS pioneered in Iraq and Syria in 2015 remains terrifyingly effective against unsuspecting urban populations. But the U.S. military is working on a new weapon to stop vehicle-born terrorist threats, one that could help police departments as well.
The Defense Department’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, or JNLWD, is pushing ahead with a new direct energy weapon that uses high-powered microwaves to stop cars in their tracks without damaging the vehicle, its driver, or anyone else.
The jammer works by targeting the car’s engine control unit causing it to reboot over and over, stalling the engine. Like an invisible hand, the microwaves hold the car in place. “Anything that has electronics on it, these high-powered microwaves will affect,” David Law, who leads JNLWD’s technology division, said in March. “As long as the [radio] is on, it holds the vehicle stopped.”
The military is developing the weapon for “force protection” — as in protecting soldiers and bases. But it has applications for police as well. Placed strategically around cities, it could prevent attacks like the ones in Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. There are, however, some tricky legal issues involved in using electronic and radio jamming devices in the United States.
The directorate hopes to have a working prototype by FY 2019.
JNLWP Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper