The non-lethal weapons market is usually defined as being distinct from the industry that seeks to excel in the delivery of enemy destruction in the most efficient and economical way possible.
As expected, both areas are mired in ambiguity and subject to endless discussion among industry stake holders. But recent regional conflicts that are neither full-scale wars nor long-drawn battles have driven the market for non-lethal weapons, said to be worth $880.5 million in 2013.
A steady increase in market growth is set to raise that level to $1.15 billion by 2018, the report, "Non-Lethal Weapons Market (2013-2018)," said.
Civil unrest such as in Brazil and other Latin American countries is seen as a boon for the non-lethal weapons manufacturers. Governments' response to Arab Spring democracy movements in the Middle East and Africa have also generated new demand for non-lethal weaponry acquisitions by beleaguered rulers in those areas.
Urban violence, including student protests in Brazil and Chile and labor revolts in Argentina, have proven a boon to the non-lethal weapons manufacturing industry, which remains concentrated in the West. But the rise of new manufacturing capacity elsewhere, including Latin America and China and other countries in East Asia, is seen likely to buck that trend.
Besides leading manufacturer Brazil in Latin America, several new suppliers for non-lethal weaponry have cropped up, posing a challenge on both price and delivery. Manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere in the West are up against rivals who compete on price, payment terms and lack of parliamentary controls that often come in the way of lucrative arms exports.
"The change in the nature of warfare from conventional to insurgency and war in urban terrain has been a driving factor for the non-lethal weapons sector," said MarketsandMarkets, which published the report.
"The sector is highly competitive with a host of industry participants vying for contracts, and austerity in most Western countries is expected to increase competition," the report said.
The report looked at non-lethal "blunt impact" weapons, including batons and rubber bullets, dispersed weapons, such as tear gas and pepper sprays, electrical devices and directed-energy weapons such stun guns and anti-vehicle weapons that stop short of destroying the target.
"Non-lethal weapons are designed with the intent to minimize casualties and significant injuries, as well as undesired damage to property, in comparison with the use of lethal weapons in the same situations," the U.S. Defense Department's joint non-lethal weapons program says.
The United States is expected to procure non-lethal weapons worth more than $1 billion during the five-year period.
There have been increased purchases by Russia and many of the emerging economies, including countries in the Middle East, that have had to deal with internal dissent and related domestic security issues.
Apart from the existing non-lethal weapons technology, a number of new capabilities are being developed, mainly by manufacturers in the United States, the report says.
These are likely to include sensor-fused non-lethal munitions, distributed sound and light array, vehicle and vessel stopping devices, and multi-frequency radio-frequency vehicle stopper, the report says.
However, a recent European symposium on non-lethal weapons considered controversies surrounding the non-lethal weapons.
"Some twenty years have already passed since the earliest deployments of NLW, and these equipments represent an important tool for most of the military and law enforcement personnel," the Seventh European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons in Ettlingen, Germany, considered in an introduction.
"Yet, despite many significant success stories and results, there are great uncertainties and, generally speaking, concerns among the public opinion, the media, and, as consequence, the policy makers, regarding the effectiveness vs. the risks. Technological developments are often slower than expected and in many cases forecasts and promises were not adequately fulfilled, causing growing uncertainties on the next achievements."
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