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The US military is about to deploy the most high-tech crowd control weapon to date, one that will undoubtedly make its way to US cities and militarized police departments. reports that some AC-130 gunships are being fitted with the Active Denial System (ADS), better known as the “pain ray.”

This unnerving machine directs a beam of concentrated microwave energy which causes a severe burning sensation to people in its path, and has a range of almost a half-mile. It literally cooks the top layer of your skin. No one can stand in its path, as this video demonstrates.

The Pentagon, when developing ADS, made no bones about its potential:

“The ADS will support a full spectrum of operations ranging from non-lethal methods of crowd and mob dispersal, checkpoint security, perimeter security, area denial, port protection, infrastructure protection and clarification of intent (identifying combatants from non-combatants).”

The Air Force will use it from the sky, but ground-based ADS has already been around for years. The Army has at least five of the truck-mounted versions, although their deployment faces repeated legal, political and public relations hurdles. It’s no wonder, as the weapon could be construed as a torture device.

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If you cannot get out of its path, the pain ray will continue heating your skin until second- and third-degree burns develop. The sensation has been described as holding an incandescent light bulb to one’s skin.

A report produced by Dr. Jürgen Altmann at the German Foundation for Peace Research suggested that ADS can even cause death. If at least 20% of a person’s body suffers second- and third-degree burns, it can cause death from toxic-tissue decay products and infection risk. Burns can happen if the operator is not careful enough, or is sadistic enough, or if someone simply cannot get out of the way due to being incapacitated or disabled.

This hasn’t stopped Raytheon from marketing smaller devices to domestic law enforcement, scaled-down in size and range but possessing an equally painful beam. A product called the Assault Intervention Device has already been tested at the Los Angeles County jail.

Raytheon is currently working on a handheld pain ray specifically designed for police, about the size of a heavy rifle.

The ultimate crowd-control pain ray may be the Silent Guardian. This device, currently available for sale, can be mounted on standard tactical military vehicles such as the MRAP, which is already used by police departments across the country.

According to Raytheon’s marketing material, “Silent Guardian provides extraordinary tactical ability to control outbreaks of violence, minimize collateral damage and ultimately saves lives.”

Of course, we know that even peaceful of protests are fair game for law enforcement to use their crowd-control toys, such as G20 demonstrations where the Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) was used. It would be no surprise to encounter a Silent Guardian at the next protest.