Samuel J. Heyman Service To America Medals
2007 Finalist
National Security and International Affairs


Dr. William Baker

Chief Scientist, Directed Energy
Air Force Research Laboratory
Department of the Air Force
Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


Developed new weapons technologies including the world’s longest-range, non-lethal weapons which heat the target’s skin without causing permanent harm.


Developed new weapons technologies including the world’s longest-range, non-lethal weapons which heat the target’s skin without causing permanent harm.

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Set your phasers to stun. Thanks to Dr. William Baker and his team, that’s no longer just a signature line from the fictional series Star Trek. He has developed a real-life weapon that uses millimeter waves to give a sudden blast of heat, disabling human targets in a non-lethal way. This is just one of the many revolutionary technologies Dr. Baker has developed to enhance our national security and prove that less harmful weapons can be more effective.

Dr. Baker’s work is described as bridging the gap between bullhorns and bullets. He led the integration of multiple projects to develop the noted heat pulse weapon. What the weapon actually does is allow millimeter waves to be shot, penetrating human skin by one-third of a millimeter. The energy rapidly heats the skin, causing intolerable pain and an involuntary repel effect. Perhaps most important, it leaves no permanent injury.

A vehicle-mounted version of this system has been developed and tested, making this the world’s longest-range non-lethal weapon. This technology was developed by the military, but it may also significantly improve the ability of police departments and similar entities to more effectively and safely control crowds.

Dr. Baker has not only created weapons that seem straight out of Star Trek, he has developed technology to help us better detect and image objects in space. Understanding what is in space, what it can do, and whether it is a threat, is essential to our national security. He led a nationwide study to determine the nation’s space situational awareness capabilities and focus needed technology advancements.

In particular, Dr. Baker has helped to develop technology to remove the effects of atmospheric turbulence on seeing objects in space. In military projects, this technology has been useful in seeing and tracking objects that domestic or international groups put into space. This technology allows very high resolution imaging of space objects and is a critical enabling technology for the development of potential future ground-based laser systems. On a commercial level, this technology has proved valuable in helping to identify problems with corrupted private satellites.

Dr. Baker is currently working on a counter-electronics project. This technology allows an entire building’s electronics to stop without harming the individuals inside. The goal of this work is to reduce collateral damage and functionally defeat high priority targets without destruction or lethality.

All of these technologies may seem very abstract, but one of the applications of his work is all too real. As an expert on high-powered microwave technologies, Dr. Baker was recently tasked with devising ways to disable Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq. Within three months, Dr. Baker and his team were able to analyze IEDs and demonstrate possible high power microwave countermeasures.

These achievements have all made Dr. Baker an internationally renowned expert in his field. He has contributed to more than 100 publications in national and international scientific forums, and he earned the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE) top award for work in the pulse-powered field and has been elected an IEEE Fellow.

Dr. William Baker is committed not only to the pursuit of new discovery, but to revitalizing the government he has called home for 37 years. He developed a plan to recruit and mentor a new era of scientists and engineers to work in his field. He also formed a council of senior scientists at the Air Force’s Directed Energy Directorate to enhance the professional development of young employees. Dr. William Baker is not only revolutionizing the future of weapons, he is helping to ensure that future government scientists will continue to do groundbreaking work to preserve America’s place as the world’s leading superpower.


Honoree Details

Dr. William Baker

Chief Scientist, Directed Energy
Air Force Research Laboratory
Department of the Air Force
Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


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