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Monday, May 21, 2012 11:00:00

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Sometimes it’s better to incapacitate a potential enemy than to kill him. That’s a lesson the US military learned the hard way in the course of several brutal wars. Today, thanks to that painful experience, American troops and their closest allies have access to the latest “nonlethal” weaponry, meant for confusing, distracting, or hurting a bad guy without killing him.

In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier™, Ghosts and Russian Bodark commandos use several types of nonlethal weapons. The incapacitating gear, available through the game’s Gunsmith weapons-customization feature, fits onto the player’s assault rifle, shotgun, and other infantry weapons. “We are pretty liberal when it comes to players customizing their gear,” says TK, one of the game’s developers.

The first purpose-made nonlethal weapon was CS gas, or “tear gas,” named for its inventors Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton. Since its invention in 1928, CS gas – which causes a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat – has been used in combat, riot, and hostage situations all over the world.

CS gas can send people scurrying away, or in some cases knock them flat on the ground, in too much pain to resist. During the Vietnam War, troops pumped CS gas into Vietcong tunnels to force out the defenders. In the 1990s, many nations labeled CS gas a “chemical weapon” and banned it from routine use, albeit with plenty of loopholes.

The CS gas ban left a gap in army and police arsenals. As partial replacements, law enforcement agencies adopted low-velocity rubber and beanbag bullets, blinding laser “dazzlers,” and electric stun guns.

Armies were slower to fill the less-than-lethal gap. In Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s, American soldiers and Marines discovered they had no way of breaking up angry crowds. They also needed a nonlethal weapon for preventing drivers from barreling through road checkpoints. Scores of civilians died in tragic encounters with ill-equipped US troops who had little choice but to use lethal weapons in situations that did not call for them.

After a heated internal debate, the Pentagon bought up thousands of the handheld laser dazzlers already in widespread use by police departments. The pistol-shaped laser devices fire a high-intensity light beam that temporarily blinds its target. Whatever the targeted individuals are up to, they have no choice but to stop once the laser hits them.

In Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the player still has access to CS gas canisters, fired from a standard underbarrel grenade launcher compatible with a wide range of infantry weapons. A laser dazzler and a stun gun can also be added as underbarrel attachments. But players should be careful not to add too much to their standard weapons. For realism and to avoid the creation of unfair “super-weapons,” the game’s developers added a weight penalty for every add-on. “We wanted the attachments and weapons to each have advantages and disadvantages,” TK says.

Today’s frontline troops are history’s most lethal killers, but killing isn’t always the best choice... Nonlethal weapons, developed in fits and starts over the last century, give soldiers the option of incapacitating someone instead of taking his life! This is especially critical when it’s not clear who’s friend and who’s foe… the subject of an upcoming dispatch.



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GRFS 01/08/2013




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