On Wednesday, two suicide bombers drove their explosives-filled cars into military targets in Egypt, killing at least nine soldiers and wounding 17 people. In effort to prevent such attacks on their member countries, NATO has developed a ray gun-like weapon capable of stopping suspected suicide bombers’ vehicle before they reach their designated targets.
Built by Diehl Defence, the nonlethal gun emits a beam of microwave energy that causes voltage spikes in electronic devices, essentially frying the circuits within. Since electronics are essential for a car engine to run, the beam immediately shuts down an approaching and potentially dangerous vehicle.
NATO researchers recently released a video of the beam stopping an approaching car at a simulated military checkpoint. By mounting the beam-shooting device in the back of a vehicle, tests showed the system is capable of disabling a car that approaches from the rear. The device can even remotely deactivate a bomb by jamming radio signals and it could be used at sea to disable pirate ships and to shut down drones.
Details of how it works are still kept under wraps, but the physics are known. The trick is designing a beam generator with enough energy and then directing that energy toward a specific location. How to do that has eluded scientists for years. And although the weapons bears no resemblance to an actual sci-fi ray gun (it looks like a trio of blenders in a large cupboard) if it stops suicide bombers, no one is going to get hung up on the aesthetics.
Nic Halverson contributed to this article.