Is 5G a Weapon?
The telecommunications industry continues to roll out the fifth generation (5G) of wireless connectivity. Building on the four previous generations of radiofrequency emissions, the millimeter waves of 5G add frequencies in the gigahertz (GHz) range to the soup of non-native electromagnetic field proliferation.
With scant research documenting the safety of exposure to this novel band of frequencies, I decided to search for any use related health impacts. That’s when I discovered that the U.S. government has been researching the use of millimeter waves as a nonlethal weapon.
It’s called the Active Denial System (ADS). The Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office of the U.S. Department of Defense Non-Lethal Weapons Program investigated the ADS for deployment for crowd control by aiming a “man-sized (1.5 m) beam of millimeter waves (not microwaves) at a range up to 1,000 meters. It will have the same compelling non-lethal effect on all human targets, regardless of size, age and gender.”
The beam operates at a frequency of 95 GHz and is intended to produce heat on the surface of the skin that is irritating enough to disperse crowds. According to the use report, two injuries were associated with testing the ADS (both second-degree burns) on over 13,000 volunteers, but developers are confident there are no long-term adverse effects.
The U.S. military may not be the only entity researching such a weapon. In what is being called Havana syndrome, U.S. and Canadian embassy staff stationed in Havana experienced pain, cognitive difficulties, and ear ringing. The Wall Street Journal ran a series of articles1-3 about it, and a U.S. National Academies paper published in The Lancet concluded that the symptoms experienced by the embassy staff are consistent with exposure to pulsed radiofrequency energy.
Clearly millimeter waves have a destabilizing effect on the body. I wanted to learn more about ADS and place it within the greater context of the millimeter waves used in 5G for telecommunications. For that, I needed to compare and contrast the specifics of the technologies. To get those details, I had to submit a request to the U.S. military under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For whatever reason, that request is not visible on the FOIA archive, which states “The description of this request is under agency review.” Here is the original request submitted Feb. 8, 2022:
Attn: FOIA officer Ms. Sally Hughes
Re: Active Denial System
Greetings Ms. Hughes,
Regarding this request, please provide the following information on the Active Denial System (ADS) researched by the Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office of the U.S. Department of Defense Non-Lethal Weapons Program:
Please confirm the ADS’s millimeter frequency wave output of 95 GHz and/or if another or multiple frequency band has been researched or implemented.
Please state the intended range of use for the ADS, as well as the wattage of the radiofrequency electromagnetic field produced at the target range.
As the ADS is “suitable for operational deployment,” please state when and where the ADS has been deployed (whether domestic or foreign), and if it has been used on the public or for military purposes.
Please also state if the deployment was successful, and if any short term or long term negative consequences on the intended target(s) were observed. This summary should include any ill physical or behavioral effects beyond the documented second-degree burns noted in the Human Effects Advisory Panel independent assessment.
Thank you for your attention to detail in providing this information.
In response to my request, I received this reply March 10, 2022, archived as DON-USMC-2022-004432:
Sir, in response to your questions the following answers are provided:
Q: “Please state the intended range of use for the ADS, as well as the wattage of the radiofrequency electromagnetic field produced at the target range.”
A: The intended range of Active Denial Systems is 1000M. The design allows for 2.2 W/cm2 of energy at the target range.
Q: “As the ADS is ‘suitable for operational deployment,’ please state when and where the ADS has been deployed (whether domestic or foreign), and if it has been used on the public or for military purposes.”
A: ADS was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. It was re-deployed to the United States after two months. It has never been used on the public.
Q: “Please also state if the deployment was successful, and if any short term or long term negative consequences on the intended target(s) were observed. This summary should include any ill physical or behavioral effects beyond the documented second-degree burns noted in the Human Effects Advisory Panel independent assessment.”
A: The ADS was not employed during its deployment. There have never been documented negative physical or behavioral effects beyond what was noted in the HEAP assessment.
Interestingly, the ADS has been deployed but never used. It appears the government is just sitting on this technology for now, even if a similar nonlethal weapon has allegedly been used on U.S. intelligence and military personnel, resulting in the aforementioned Havana syndrome. The more important detail from the response was the wattage of the ADS beam, which allows something of a comparison with 5G technology.
We already knew the frequency of the ADS system is 95 GHz and the intended range of 1,000 meters. By contrast, 5G towers initially operated below 6 GHz (low band) and have since been rolled out in frequencies of 24-47 GHz (high band) for terrestrial towers. The FCC plans to license millimeter-wave frequencies to telecommunications companies that are higher still, from 57-92 GHz. Satellites operate in two frequency bands, named Ku and Ka, that are 12-18 GHz and 27.5-31.5 GHz, respectively.
The intended range for 5G towers depends on the frequency, with high-band millimeter frequencies having a shorter range of 300 meters, while low-band frequencies can extend several kilometers. Satellites operating in low Earth orbit can transmit at far greater distances of several hundred kilometers.
The power of the ADS beam is 2.2 W/cm2. This is much more precise than estimates for terrestrial towers, which depend on the frequency band and technology employed by each network. Terrestrial 5G towers (pico/micro/metro cell towers) transmit at 1-20 watts. This does not allow for an even comparison, as the ADS is a focused beam, while converting the power output of 5G towers from watts to watts per centimeter squared depends on distance from the tower, beam width, and objects in the environment that can block the signal.4 The power output of 5G satellites varies widely depending on many factors, but low-Earth-orbit satellites transmit in the tens of watts, while geostationary satellites operate at several hundred watts.
What can we conclude from all this jargon? The frequencies used by 5G towers are already millimeter waves and fast approaching the higher frequency used by the ADS. While the latter is a focused beam, it is not unreasonable to speculate that occupying a space close to one or more 5G towers would also approximate the power output of the ADS. Even though the comparison isn’t exact, I can imagine someone who is more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) might report anomalous sensations after a nearby 5G tower or satellite becomes operational. Those symptoms could include anxiety and skin irritation, as experienced with the ADS, or pain, brain fog, and ear ringing, as reported with Havana syndrome.
What is less clear is what happens when millimeter waves are slowly rolled out on top of the non-native frequencies of the previous generations of radiofrequency radiation. Is anyone studying the gestalt of all these novel frequencies? Nor do we have a mature understanding of how they could be affecting different biological systems. A safety report on rodents exposed to radiofrequency waves for a few weeks or months doesn’t tell us what butterflies or bees are experiencing after a few years of exposure.
Practically no one is even asking these questions, let alone trying to answer them. One thing is certain: If millimeter waves are a nonlethal weapon, it is not unreasonable to speculate that a subset of that same technology could have more subtle biological effects that are not yet documented.
1. Some Havana Syndrome Cases Likely Caused by Electromagnetic Waves, Panel Finds
2. U.S. Diplomats’ Illnesses Likely Linked to Pulsed Energy Attack
3. U.S. Aide in China Taken Ill in a Case Echoing Cuba Acoustic Attacks
4. Impact of EMF Limits on 5G Network Roll-Out