Microwave Weapons That Could Cause Havana Syndrome Exist, Experts Say | Weapon technology
PPortable microwave weapons capable of inducing the mysterious wave of “Havana syndrome” brain damage among US diplomats and spies have been developed by several countries in recent years, according to leading US experts in the field.
An American company also produced the prototype of such a weapon for the Marine Corps in 2004. The weapon, code name Astonished, was supposed to be small enough to fit in a car and cause a “temporarily disabling effect” but “with a low probability of death or permanent injury”.
There is no evidence that the research has gone beyond the prototype phase, and a report on this step has been pulled from a US Navy website. Scientists with knowledge of the project said ethical considerations preventing human experimentation contributed to the project’s suspension – but said such consideration had not hampered American adversaries, including Russia and possibly China.
“The state of this science has been largely, if not abandoned, pretty much left fallow in the United States – but it has not been fallow elsewhere,” said James Giordano, professor of neurology and ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Giordano, who is also a senior researcher in biotechnology, biosafety and ethics at the US Naval War College, was appointed a government adviser in late 2016 after around 20 US diplomats began to fall ill in Havana. He then participated in an assessment for US Special Forces Command on which countries were developing the technology and what they had achieved.
“It has become clear that part of the work being done in the former Soviet Union has been taken over by Russia and its satellite proxies,” Giordano said, adding that China has also developed directed energy devices to test the structure of various materials, with technology that could be adapted to weapons. A second major wave of brain damage among U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers took place in China in 2018.
Giordano is not authorized to give details of which country developed which type of device, but he said the new weapons use microwave frequencies, capable of disrupting brain function without any burning sensation.
“It was important – and rather scary – for us, because it represented a state of advancement and sophistication of these types of instruments that we had not thought of until now,” he said. declared.
If an American opponent has succeeded in miniaturizing the directed energy technology needed to inflict tissue damage at a distance, that makes these weapons a more plausible explanation for Havana Syndrome.
More than 130 officials in the United States, the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council (NSC), suffered from symptoms, including dizziness, loss of balance, nausea and headaches, identified for the first time in Cuba. The impact on some of the victims was debilitating and long lasting.
Some of the more recent incidents have involved NSC officials showing crippling symptoms in broad daylight in Washington. The State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon have all launched investigations, but have yet to draw conclusions. A Report of the National Academy of Sciences in December, found that Havana Syndrome injuries were most likely caused by “directed pulsed radio frequency energy.”
Microwave weapon theory skeptics have pointed to decades of American efforts to build such a device during the Cold War and since, without confirmed success. They also argued that a weapon capable of inflicting brain damage from a distance would be too heavy to use in urban areas.
However, James Lin, the leading US authority on the biological impact of microwave energy, said that a large device would not be needed to focus energy on a small area, heating it up to a tiny amount and causing “a thermoelastic pressure wave“which travels to the brain, causing damage to soft tissue.
The pressure wave would initially be felt by the target as a sound. Many U.S. diplomats, spies, soldiers and officials whose symptoms are being investigated as part of the Havana Syndrome investigation said they heard strange sounds at the start of the attacks.
“You can certainly assemble a system in a few big suitcases that will allow you to put it in a pickup truck or SUV,” said Lin, professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois. “It’s not something you need to have huge amounts of space or equipment to do.”
The microwave weapon project for the United States Marine Corps, first reported in Wired, was first developed by a company called WaveBand Corporation. Codenamed Medusa – an artificial acronym for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio – the weapon used the same technology as suggested by Professor Lin, the “microwave audio effect”, which created fast microwave pulses that heated the soft tissues of the brain slightly, causing a shock wave inside the skull.
WaveBand received $ 100,000 for the prototype, which according to the contract specifications would be “portable, would require low power, would have a controllable coverage radius, would be able to switch from group coverage to individual coverage, would cause a temporary disabling effect, would have a low probability of death or permanent injury, would not cause any damage to property and would have a low probability of affecting friendly staff ”.
A navy document in 2004 (which has since been removed from the Navy Small Business Innovation Research site) said the hardware was designed and built. “Power measurements have been taken and the required pulse parameters have been confirmed,” he said. The paper added: “Experimental evidence of MAE [microwave auditory effect] has been observed. “
Former WaveBand Chairman and CEO Lev Sadovnik said he was limited in what he was allowed to say about the project, but said the immediate effects of the EAW were disorientation and the impression of hear sounds.
Sadovnik said a device capable of inducing the symptoms of Havana Syndrome could be relatively portable.
“It’s totally conceivable that you could hide it in a car or in a van, but it wouldn’t work over a long distance,” he said. “You can do it through a wall, say, if you’re in the next room of a hotel.”
Sadovnik said the Medusa prototype was not powerful enough to cause lasting damage, and that it would not be allowed. But he said Russia was further ahead in understanding the human impact of microwave weapons – in part because it didn’t face the same ethical constraints.
“We have very strict limitations here, of course, on human testing and animal testing,” he said. “The Russians do not respect these standards. “
Giordano said the different political and ethical standards in Russia and China create “unique opportunities to advance bioscience and technology development in a way that would be untenable in the United States and in the agendas of our NATO allies. “.
Although many US officials and victims believe Russia is behind the attacks, there is so far no convincing evidence that Moscow is responsible. In some cases, Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) vehicles would have been near the site of an apparent attack. But it would not be unusual for the GRU to follow US officials.
The Russians certainly had a long history of using microwave technology against American diplomatic missions. The embassy in Moscow turned out to be bathed in microwave radiation in the 1960s and early 1970s, although the intent behind this was never clear. This episode escalated into a scandal when it emerged that the US government had hidden the fact from its own diplomats.
At the same time, the United States was spending huge sums of money trying to develop its own directed energy weapons, both laser and microwave. Mark Zaid, an attorney representing some of the Havana Syndrome victims, has a CIA briefing slide appearing to date from the 1960s or 1970s that shows a building hit by microwaves from a nearby structure. Zaid said the slide was part of the personal effects left by a deceased agency official.
“The army loves the rays of death. Everyone loves death rays – and lasers had some of the characteristics of death rays, so people kind of got excited about it, ”recalls Cheryl Rofer, who worked on the research on them. lasers and hearing weapons in the 1970s at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
This auditory research ultimately led to the long-range acoustic device, or “Sound cannon”, used by some police forces against demonstrators last summer. But this does not lead to any “rays of death”.
“Thinking about something and building it are two different things,” Rofer said. And the experience of seeing billions spent over decades with little result has left her skeptical of new claims regarding microwave weapon development.
“The military has a lot of money all over the place, and they’ll try a lot of different things, and some of them are good and some not so good.”
Giordano, however, said that while development has stalled in the US, it has been pursued by US adversaries. The initial two dozen cases in Havana, he said, represented a field test of the equipment.
He said that while the United States is focused on expensive weapons for traditional warfare, Russia, China and others are “very interested and committed to developing non-kinetic tools that can be exploited below the threshold. which would be formally considered as acts of war, in order to engage in the process of mass upheaval ”.