November 5, 2005 No this is not a movie prop nor will it be marketed by Mattel for the bigger boys this Christmas– it is one of two working prototypes of a non-lethal laser gun built by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate. The non-lethal illumination technology weapon was developed by the laboratory's ScorpWorks team. Dubbed the PhaSR (who needs a Madison Avenue creative team when you can come up with names like this – an acronym for Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response), it is the first man-portable, non-lethal deterrent weapon and is intended for protecting troops and controlling hostile crowds. The weapon employs a two-wavelength laser system and is a hand-held, single-operator system for troop and perimeter defense. The weapon’s laser light temporarily blinds its targets.

The first two prototypes are being tested by the laboratory's own Human Effectiveness Directorate at Brooks City Base, Texas, and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate at Quantico, Virginia.

"The future is here with PHaSR," said Capt. Thomas Wegner program manager. Captain Wegner is also the ScorpWorks flight commander within the laser division of the energy directorate here. ScorpWorks is a unit of military scientists and engineers that develops laser system prototypes for AFRL, from beginning concept to product field testing.

The National Institute of Justice recently awarded ScorpWorks US$250,000 to make an advanced prototype that will add an eye-safe laser range finder into PHaSR. Systems such as PHaSR have historically been too powerful at close ranges and ineffective but eye-safe at long ranges. The next prototype is planned to include the addition of the eye-safe range finder and is planned for completion in March 2006.