India Dismisses Reports of China Using ‘Microwave Weapons’ in the Himalayas

In this picture taken on September 3, 2020, an Indian Army convoy makes way along a highway in Kyelang, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the Indo-Tibetan border. - China and India shifted the blame on September 8 after the first shots in decades were fired across a flashpoint Himalayan …
MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

The Indian Army issued a statement on Wednesday denouncing media reports of China using “microwave weapons” against Indian troops in the Himalayas as “baseless” and “fake.”

The report the Indian army denounced was apparently based on a lecture given by Jin Canrong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. Jin claimed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forced Indian troops to retreat from two strategic hilltops in the mountainous border region by bathing the positions in microwave radiation. 

According to the Renmin professor, Chinese troops set up their weapons at the bottom of the contested hills and “turned the mountain tops into a microwave oven.”

This tactic supposedly delivered a brilliant victory for China because it made the Indians so uncomfortable they had to withdraw, but it did not involve firing lethal ammunition at them, which would have violated the uneasy ceasefire along the border.

“In 15 minutes, those occupying the hilltops all began to vomit. They couldn’t stand up, so they fled. This was how we retook the ground,” Jin said during his lecture.

“We didn’t publicise it because we solved the problem beautifully. They didn’t publicise it, either, because they lost so miserably,” he boasted.

Jin said the “clever idea” of microwave weapons was developed because conventional warfare is extremely difficult at the high altitudes of the Himalayas, especially for Chinese soldiers who hail from low-lying areas. 

Jin said the unconventional warfare attack was justified because India took the hilltops in late August with a “surprise attack” using Tibetan soldiers who were born and bred in the mountains. He added Chinese commanders were under “huge pressure” from their superiors to recapture territory lost to India without firing a shot.

Microwave weapons with capabilities similar to what Jin described do exist, broadly known as High Power Microwave (HPM) or Active Denial Systems (ADS). HPMs are primarily designed to scramble the electronics in enemy aircraft and missiles, while Active Denial was envisioned as an anti-personnel system. The current generation ADS is small enough to fit on a truck.

China debuted a vehicle-mounted “microwave pain gun” called the Poly WB-1, similar in size and purported capability to the ADS, in 2014. The effective range on these weapons is less than 300 feet, they take a long time to generate unbearable effects, and they are notoriously unreliable in adverse climate conditions, so Jin’s tale of cleverly trundling microwave guns to the bottom of Himalayan hills and using them to hose crack Indian troops of hardy Tibetan stock off the hilltops is questionable.

The Australian, one of the publications chastised by the Indian Army for running the story about Jin, noted that if the professor’s account was accurate, it would mark the first known use of microwave weapons against military forces on the battlefield. The ADS was deployed to Afghanistan ten years ago by the United States but reportedly never used in combat. U.S. diplomats were allegedly subjected to covert microwave attacks in Cuba in 2016 and the Chinese city of Guangzhou in 2018.

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