By Alex Kapadia
It sounds like a weapon in a Spiderman movie, but the X-Net is the UK police forces latest tyres-busting weapon against car crime.
The £3,000 net is laid out in front of a moving car and when activated it wraps itself round the wheel and barbed spikes puncture the tyres bringing the vehicle to a complete standstill within 50m.
In the best scenario, it is possible that the doors may also become entangled in the net, trapping the occupants like a spider’s web.
The X-Net, created by the British company QinetiQ, is already widely used by the US army in conflict zones such as Iraq to stop suicide car bombers.
But now it is being deployed to stop stolen cars or getaway vehicles by Gloucestershire and Kent police. However, in comic-book fashion, it is possible other forces in the UK are already using the X-Net, keeping it secret to stay one step ahead of the criminals.
According to the Home Office’s scientific development branch, a unique feature of the X-Net is that it stops vehicles in their tracks.
Other devices – such as the “stinger” – can puncture tyres, but do not completely disable vehicles, allowing them often to speed away.
The X-Net’s mesh is made of light but strong plastic netting and its spikes are made of carbon steel. The system can be carried in a holdall and laid across a road in 20 seconds.
A “remote deployment device” can also be used to set up the X-Net without a police officer having to walk across the road.
However, there is one big drawback. The net can only be used once because it gets tangled and has to be cut away.