Page last updated at 04:40 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 05:40 UK

Anti-terror gun stops boats dead


Developers test the device on a speed boat

By Gaetan Portal
BBC News

The government is appealing to industry, academics and individuals to develop new technologies to fight terrorism.

One such gadget - a device to stop a speed boat - is already under development under its science and technology strategy.

The Air Launch Running Gear Entanglement System
The device is being tested at five locations around the UK

At the Defence Diving School near Portsmouth, a team of Home Office scientists and industry experts are developing a device that aims to achieve what some consider to be the near impossible.

Their mission? Stopping a speed boat - possibly laden with explosives - from reaching its target, without the use of lethal force.

Cyber terrorism

The device, known as the Air Launch Running Gear Entanglement System, looks like a futuristic bazooka out of the imagination of a Hollywood prop designer. The US Coastguard has expressed a keen interest.

Compressed air is used on the shoulder-held device to propel a line from a pursuing boat which drags with it a high-tech, high tensile net to disable the target craft's propulsion system.

Lord West
Resources need to be drawn together to combat terrorism, says Lord West

Watching repeated trials of the system is Admiral Lord West of Spithead - the Home Office's counter terrorism minister.

Explaining how the system might be used in the future, he said: "Let's say now we're off Weymouth in 2012 and we're doing the Olympic games, and we suddenly find a boat.

"What we want to be able to do is stop it without actually having to kill the people in the boat, or risk killing the people in the boat."

The device is being tested at five locations around the UK while a decision is made over its future deployment.

Lord West says the "boat-stopping system" is only a small part of what science and technology can do to help counter the terrorist threat.

It extends from cyber terrorism to reducing risk in crowded places and investigating how to intercept new methods of telecommunications, he adds.

"To defeat this terrorist threat to our nation, we needed to draw on all our resources, and what we are very good at as a nation is science technology and academic research, and actually within our industries we can produce really good things."

The science and technology strategy is, according to Lord West, designed to help keep "one step ahead of the terrorists".

The Home Office is casting its own net as wide as possible to garner innovative ideas - and is encouraging industry and even private individuals to come forward.

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