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'Sonic bullet' could disable hijackers

US security chiefs are testing sonic bullets which can harm and confuse plane hijackers without endangering the aircraft.

The problem with traditional firearms is that they can puncture the cabin wall depressurising the aircraft.

Sonic bullet guns produce narrow but high-power beams of sound which hurt and disorientate the target.

Elwood Norris, chairman of American Technologies in San Diego, California, says the US department of defence is interested in his device.

He told New Scientist: "They wanted to know, could you use this without any destruction to fuselage walls and windows? And the answer is yes."

The prototype 'directed stick radiator' is in a one metre-long tube, with discs inside which act like individual speakers.

As each speaker fires, the sound wave expands until it reaches 140 decibels which is 20 more than the point when sound becomes painful.

Mr Norris said: "It almost knocked me on my butt. I wasn't interested in anything for quite a while afterwards. You could virtually knock a cow on its back with this."

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