Less than Lethal Effects – Communications work both ways!

Media focus tends towards news of needless deaths and associated collateral damage and the military focus quite rightly, is on the safety of their personnel. Recent articles and seminars have highlighted the roles of the combat soldier being switched from aggressive soldiering to that more akin to a policeman in an instant on the battlefield.

It would be hoped that current military doctrine reflects this and it probably does in effect by being incorporated in pre-deployment training for both combat and supporting troops before they arrive in-theatre.

This article outlines Vitavox’s rationale to address why an indigenous person, at the point of approach needs to be told at a safe distance, in his own language what action exactly is required of them knowing that the message has been delivered strongly and with clarity. To this end Vitavox proposes their Outacom™ System which is a simple plug and play solution that may be integrated with the existing on board intercom system, in theatre if necessary with a minimum of operational down time.

Royal Corps of Signals

The Corps has provided army communications for more than 150 years. Signalling has evolved by the use of beacons, runners, riders, semaphore, mirrors and in latter years over ever increasing ranges by use of radio, microwave, internet and satellite. The Corps have strived successfully to do deliver with efficiency and security regardless of the war, conflict or campaign concerned.

Escalation in Use of Force

Current escalation of use of force and possible current solutions to threats arising from these situations can be defined in five distinct stages with their likely remedies and associated actions:

Passive Warnings such as:

•Signage or flagging
•Flashing lights/lasers

Active Deterrent Initiation such as:

•Aggressive body language
•Smoke grenades

Less Than Lethal Interdiction such as:

•Gaining the undeniable attention of the approaching party by indicating physical possession of a weapon
•Warning shots – in the air, overhead or in front of the target

Non Lethal use of Lethal Weapons such as:

•Gesticulating, waving, directly pointing at the target
•Firing – in the air and then closer and closer

Lethal Force such as;


A Less Than Lethal Weapons & Effects (LTLWE) seminar held in Harwell during November 2009 addressed the MoD’s need to solve these challenges and reducing risk to human lives and collateral damage. This interesting and informative seminar revolved around a call for different, innovative solutions to be provided by investigating possible scientific approaches to bridging the gap between shouting to (Action 1 above) a suspected miscreant or shooting him (Action 5 above). It seems, from the video shown at the seminar that the current middle of the road solution for the soldier to employ is to fire warning shots and hope that the target doesn’t get hit but does get the message to stop, retreat or adhere to a subsequent verbal instruction.

Hearts and Minds or Political Consequences?

This is essentially what it comes down to. The course of action open to the soldier with the tools at his disposal would currently appear more likely to increase the risk of losing hearts and minds particularly should the target be innocent. Should the approaching person have mal-intent, he or she should be engaged at a distance that allows the miscreant to rethink their intent before committing the crime.

Science can and very probably will provide some very clever solutions based around new innovations of technology thereby enabling the singular debilitation of the threat presented by a targeted suspect. This is more acceptable if you are sure that the target is guilty and already established as a proper threat to safety. If not, then a more subtle basic approach is the answer. Being sure that you have been heard at a benign range is more appropriate.

Perceived Potential Threats and Scenarios:

•Vehicle Check Points: How is it ensured that the vehicle occupants – such as suicide bombers, are more likely to have heard the instruction to stop? Determining the intent of the vehicle or person approaching has got to be as concise as possible before lethal action is undertaken.
•IED Location and Indication: Clearly inform occupants of the local area that there is a threat or likely threat and the immediate evasive action to take.
•Enemy Lookouts (‘Dikkers’): Will be less likely to stand their ground and continue to be a threat if they know they are being directly targeted.
•Group Dispersal: Crowds and gangs gathering around a vehicle need to understand the possible direct consequences of not dispersing without the crew winding down their windows or sticking their heads out of the vehicle.
•Buildings & Rooms Clearance: A protected, in vehicle issued instruction is safer than one from outside in an aggressive situation.
•Incapacitated, Hostile or Fleeing miscreant: The soldier needs to know that the STOP! command has been heard before taking the next step in the process.
•Disruption of mobile phone network or radio system, possibly due to explosion: Emergency, basic, local command and control is required for both in and outside vehicle
•Collateral Damage: needless and avoidable damage to local infrastructure wins no hearts and minds. Opening fire, even if only intended as a warning, can damage any positive perception of the local civilian population.

The Vitavox Outacom™ System will add value by enabling the soldier to be better equipped to deal with all of the above situations either from the safety of his vehicle or at a remote distance. Outacom™ integrates the simplicity of voice with the rugged durability required of tried and tested military technology.

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