Heat Rays, Laser Weapons, and an Emerging Profit Trend

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted September 18, 2020

Hours before a patchwork federal police force dispersed protesters from the White House with tear gas so Donald Trump could have his picture taken with a bible, the Defense Department's lead military police officer sent out a call for a "heat ray" that could be used to scorch the skin of American citizens.

The weapon, known as an Active Denial System, is a form of directed-energy weapon (or laser weapon), that's seldom been used since its inception more than 20 years ago. But it, and other laser weapons like it, are set to see greater use in the years ahead — though hopefully not domestically.

Indeed, the technology behind these weapons has been around for decades...

The U.S. Army first started developing laser weapons in the early 1960s. By 1962, they were already a $50 million industry.

However, the technology was slow to modernize. By the 1970s, laser weapons were more of a nuisance than a lethal weapon — and an inhumane one at that.

Military researchers around the world developed a laser-based "eye-popper" device that would blind pilots in mid-air.

It was a grim vision, backed by disturbing lab tests that used giant pulse lasers to bring rabbit and monkey eyes to the boiling point, causing them to bleed and even explode.

Development of that weapon extended into the 1980s, ultimately culminating in the so-called C-CLAW (combat laser assault weapon), which could sweep back and forth across a battlefield, blinding anyone who looked at it.

Obviously, the ethics of such a device were dubious and hotly debated. And ultimately, in 1995, the Geneva Conventions were updated to ban the use of blinding laser weapons.

Of course, there is a loophole, in that as long as you don’t intentionally aim a laser weapon at an enemy’s eyes with the goal of causing permanent damage, they're still fair game. 

And so during the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military legally deployed low-powered dazzler lasers to temporarily incapacitate individuals. These "laser optical incapacitation devices" technically complied with the Geneva Conventions, because the blindness they caused was temporary, not permanent.

The heat ray government shock troops inquired about got its start in the wake of the 1993 gun battle in Mogadishu that killed 19 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis. That incident led strategists to develop a less deadly option for forces cornered in an urban area.

Thus the ADS heat ray, which uses a microwave beam to make skin feel like it's on fire, was unveiled in 2001. 

The device creates heat by pushing energy through a magnetic field. But unlike the kitchen appliance, the weapon generates millimeter waves that only penetrate 1/64th of an inch into the skin. That's enough to hurt like hell but not leave burns.

However, it's not especially effective in a military capacity.  It doesn't work well in rain, snow, or dust, and it's difficult to transport.

So, while it was shipped to Afghanistan in 2010, it was recalled within weeks and never used due to logistical, ethical, and safety concerns. 

That's why most Americans are only hearing about it now, despite its 20-year existence.

Given its ineffectiveness in combat and the agonizing nature of its application, the ADS heat ray is frequently described as a torture device.

Frankly, it's shameful that anyone in the federal government would consider using a weapon like this against Americans exercising their constitutional rights. 

Nevertheless, there is a much clearer role for more effective laser weapons which are being rapidly developed and quickly deployed.

For example, laser weapons are increasingly being used to defend against drones and drone swarms, as well as incoming missiles — a purpose they're especially well-suited for.

Lasers don’t run out of ammunition, making them more reliable and cost-efficient than multimillion-dollar missiles. They can act as both a sensor and a weapon, which reduces the sensor-to-shooter timeline. And they can scramble a drone's circuits or burn them out in a fraction of a second.

That's why the U.S. Air Force deployed three new laser weapons in April, planting them at overseas bases to defend against drone swarms. 

And in May, the Navy released video of its latest laser weapon destroying a drone target mid-flight from aboard the USS Portland. 

That weapon — known as the MK 2 MOD 0, or the Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) — is the most powerful laser weapon that American forces have yet deployed.

The LWSD has an output of 150 kilowatts, making it five times more powerful than other Navy lasers, like the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was deployed on the USS Ponce in 2014.

However, it's the Army that's pushing forward with plans for the most powerful laser weapon to date: The Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL), which aims to deliver 250 to 300 kilowatts of explosive energy.

In all, Pentagon spending on laser technology has surged more than 200% over the past year, and that budget will continue to expand as lasers are adapted to tanks and fighter jets.

Globally, spending on directed-energy weapons has surged from $922 million in 2017 to $1.3 billion in 2018, $1.8 billion in 2019, and is on track to reach $2.2 billion in 2020.

So, this is a nascent industry with tremendous growth potential. 

That's why I've homed in on a major laser component supplier that's crucial to all of these projects.

The company I've found makes laser diodes — the only ones potent enough to power military-grade laser weapons.

It's the go-to supplier for heavyweights like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. 

And that's why this small supplier is about to see a huge increase in demand for its services. 

You can find my full report on that company here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of The Wealth Warrior, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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