NDIA Policy Points: Sonic Devices Demand Greater Research

Throughout history, sound has been used to enhance the effectiveness of conventional and psychological military operations. Today, warfighters use sonic devices for a wider variety of functions, including clear communication in the field at standoff distances, warning civilians away from bases, and non-violently deterring potential enemy combatants.

The Joint Nonlethal Weapons Program sees the near future potential for sonic devices as not only improving existing functions, but to be integrated with other nonlethal weapon systems.

Private firms have also worked to expand the role of these devices beyond their place in the military’s force escalation toolkit. The same devices used by the military have seen numerous applications in emergency responses, including directing port traffic during earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and broadcasting evacuation orders during a Colorado wildfire.

As sonic technologies grow in popularity and use, there is an increasing risk that improper deployment of their potentially debilitating effects could result in regulations that restrict their legitimate applications. Frequent problematic use by civil authorities is poisoning the public’s understanding of these technologies. This can already be seen in the media where the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a hailer used by the military for over a decade, is being referred to as a “sound cannon” due to its misuse during public protests by police forces.

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