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I have heard this claim in the past, and have found a few references to it (Example 1, Example 2). Supposedly military avionic radar units are so powerful that they are capable of killing small animals, or even humans, simply by being powered up in their vicinity during low-altitude flights.

Is this possible? How large of an animal is in danger of this? Could it kill humans?

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Depends on the radar, for example radar of AWACS would literally fry people, in case of Boeing E-3 Sentry it's 1MW (1 million watt), that's why it's not allowed to use it on low altitude and within close proximity of other planes.

Also military radars have tracking mode, which means that rather than having wide beam, it's concentrated in very narrow beam. Theres has been some experimenting in using this to fry electronic of incoming missiles with short burst of radars power.

So if you'd point military grade radar in tracking mode at an animal, no doubt you could kill it. However, it's highly unlikely, and I really doubt it could kill animal just by passing by. Normally radars operate in scan mode, which means that beam is scattered.

  • Someone - no references, sorry :-( - used an example of a helicopter landing on a ship to explain to me that the electronics in the helicopter could handle low-levels of radar noise from the ship, but were very sensitive to acute peaks in power, while the people in the helicopter weren't so sensitive to the acute peaks - it was the chronic exposure to relatively lower levels that caused them problems. I use this argument-by-dubious-authority only to warn that the ability to fry a missile doesn't necessarily imply the ability to fry an animal. – Oddthinking Nov 14 '13 at 2:17

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