The army is testing handheld ray guns

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

The US Army has developed an attachment for its M4 assault rifle that basically converts the weapon into a ray gun capable of disability electronics and circuit boards from a distance.

The attachment is named “Burke’s Pulsar” in honor of its creator, Army Armament Research electronics engineer James E. Burke, and fits over an standard-issue M4 barrel like a bayonet, according to Engadget and Gizmodo reports. When the rifle is discharged, the energy from the gunpowder explosion is converted into electrical energy through the piezoelectric effect.

The charge, which is produced when pressure is exerted on crystalline materials such as quartz, is then transmitted through a pair of antenna that spread out from the gun’s barrel. The pulsar’s range and power remain classified, but the hope is that the weapon could be used on battlefields to disable IEDs from a distance, knock out communications, or stop vehicles.

Cheaper, portable energy weapons for the battlefield

According to the website Defense One, in addition to the piezoelectric generator and the two antennas, Burke’s Pulsar also includes a blast shield to protect the user from electricity levels that the inventor said could be “hazardous.” While not the first energy weapon the military has experimented with, the pulsar would be smaller and would cost less than $1,000 each.

Burke’s Pulsar “is intended for use against electronics,” Defense One explained on Wednesday, “potentially giving dismounted soldiers an edge against the ever-wider range electronic and cyber threats that they might face on patrol: Bluetooth-enabled improvised explosive devices, consumer drones modified to be more deadly, and the like.”

Most energy weapons “are vehicle-towed and require a huge power system,” and have antennas that can be up to seven-feet in size, Burke told the website. However, the Pulsar would attach directly to a soldier’s firearm and could be used against a wide variety of devices, such as a 555 timer, a bipolar junction transistor, and a yellow LED, the inventor explained.

“All these things pretty much generalize all the common electronics you’ll find in a circuit board. What we’re going to do is fire at it. If the LED light stops blinking, it was defeated, and if smoke comes up, it was destroyed,” Burke added. He said that the range was still to be determined, and while he could not elaborate on the experiments, he called the early results “very promising.”

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