The Air Force thinks the future of weapons isn't guns and bombs — it's Directed Energy Weapons — killing devices so sophisticated, most of them don't exist yet. But just in case, the AF's covering their arses with these safety guidelines. Zap.
The DEW rules, which govern weapons defined broadly as:
A system using a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy (including but not limited to lasers and high power microwave systems), or atomic or subatomic particles primarily as a direct means to kill, injure, disable, or temporarily incapacitate people or destroy, damage or temporarily incapacitate property or materiel
Microwave pain rays are already fielded abroad, but no viable laser weapon has been developed yet. And a gun that could kill people with a beam of atoms? That's still science fiction. But it sounds dangerous — and the AF knows that. So most of these policies are rules that apply in case an airman gets zapped, and ways to ensure we don't accidentally fry an ally. It's fascinating to consider what went into this, as the Pentagon eggheads had to essentially form concrete directives out of things that exist only in imagination. Who knows what a "subatomic particle" bomb would do to a crowd of people? We'll have to find out the hard way. [FAS]