Security forces will deploy a sonic weapon as part of the growing arsenal to protect the upcoming Olympic Games in London.
The Long Range Acoustic Device acts as an extremely powerful and targeted loudspeaker, capable of emitting up to 150 decibels of concentrated sound, equivalent to standing 25 metres from a jet engine on takeoff.
Called the 1000Xi LRAD, the device will be used for the Summer Games in July and August, which will already see up to 13,500 troops deployed on land, on fighter jets and helicopters in the skies, and on two warships on the water, Britain's Defence Ministry said Saturday. There are also reports that surface-to-air missiles could be installed on rooftops of apartment buildings close to London's Olympic Stadium.
The sonic device is "an effective long range communication system that broadcasts focused, highly intelligible, multi-language messages, instructions and warnings over distances up to 3,000 metres to peacefully resolve uncertain situations," a spokesman for the San Diego-based LRAD Corp. told the British Broadcasting Corp.
The large, disk-shaped apparatus has already been seen attached to a landing craft on the River Thames, according to the BBC. The Ministry of Defence said that the device will be used in "loud hailer" mode to communicate with vessels travelling on the river.
While British forces plan to use the device to transmit messages over long distances, when cranked to full volume, the LRAD can also be used as a weapon. It emits sound blasts that cross the human threshold for pain and hearing damage, typically between 120 to 140 dB. Eardrums will instantly perforate at 160 dB of sound. Police and military forces have used the non-lethal weapon for crowd control and defence in Britain, Canada and the United States.
Vancouver authorities had a medium-range acoustic device on hand for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Later that year, security forces in Toronto purchased four LRADs, or "sound cannons," for the G20 summit and for future use by police. Both Vancouver and Toronto authorities said the sonic device would be used to communicate with protesters from far distances, not as a weapon.
Pittsburgh police used an LRAD during protests at the city's 2009 G20 summit. Last year, a college professor who attended the demonstrations filed a lawsuit against Pittsburgh forces asserting that the device had damaged her hearing.
The weapon has also been used to successfully repel pirates during an attack against a cruise ship off the Somali coast.