The US Marine Corps wants a new laser weapon system that is not only non-lethal, but can yell at people. In a recently closed call for applications, the Marines outlined the requirements for the new vehicle-mobile Scalable Compact Ultra-short Pulse Laser System (SCUPLS) that can disorient and cause pain without injury, yet can also send clear, audible warnings as far as 1,000 m (3,300 ft).

Laser weapons have garnered a lot of interest in recent years as the technology has caught up with the promise of directed energy weapons. While some lasers are designed to take out ICBMs at long distance, others have a more tactical application.

Case in point is the planned SCUPLS for the US Marine Corps. Described as a lightweight and energy efficient next-generation laser, its purpose isn't to destroy the enemy, but to deal with crowds, civil unrest, and other situations where lethal force isn't necessary or desirable. Instead, its function is to use a laser to create sustainable and controllable plasmas that produce a variety of non-lethal effects to warn and deter.

According to the request for applications from businesses to develop the system, SCUPLS builds on previous Marine programs that studied scalable laser induced plasma effects (LIPE), which showed promise, but produced systems that were cumbersome and impractical to install in a vehicle. However, the data from the tests proved valuable in developing more advanced and more compact non-lethal lasers.

Still in the concept stage, the SCUPLS is a suite of devices that include a femtosecond Ultra-Short Pulse Laser (USPL) working in combination with a nanosecond USPL. In practice, the femtosecond laser would heat up materials at the target to generate a plasma and the nanosecond laser would ignite it. The result would be bright flash and a loud bang similar to that made by a stun grenade.

In addition, the laser could be tuned and scaled to produce a feeling of intense, unbearable heat on human skin without causing lasting harm, and produce similar heating effects on fabric, denim, or leather – all at a distance of up to 100 m (330 ft). It would also include Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) system capabilities.

Along with these effects, the SCUPLS would also have a system for giving audible warnings at up to a kilometer (3,300 ft) away. This isn't a new idea. Ever since the 1970s engineers have been working on more effective and understandable warning systems. But this isn't just a matter of making a bigger PA system. Sound distorts over distance, so the hailer would have to be able to analyze the area and counter-distort the message to make it intelligible to the listener.

In addition to all this, the SCUPLS needs to be compact and light enough to be installed in a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).

The successful application for SCUPLS will need to produce a design concept and determine its technical feasibility. This would then move to the prototyping phase followed by testing, evaluation, and eventual integration into Marine operations.