Chinese Laser Weapons

The Pentagon on 03 May 2018 accused Chinese nationals of pointing lasers at US military aircraft near Djibouti on a number of occasions in recent weeks. An unnamed US official said that in one incident in April 2018, two pilots suffered minor eye injuries. The US military has warned pilots near the African country to exercise "extreme caution" and notify authorities of "unauthorized laser activity," according to some US media reports. Jane's Defense Weekly reported that the laser coordinates matched with Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, about 750 meters from China's base.

The United States protested to China after repeated instances of lasers interfering with U.S. military aircraft landing in Djibouti, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said 03 May 2018. In her weekly news conference, White confirmed that two Air Force crewmen were slightly injured in one incident. "They are very serious incidents," White said. "There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a true … threat to our airmen." The United States formally "demarched" the Chinese government, and requested that the Chinese investigate the incidents. Demarche is a diplomatic term used when a nation protests or objects to policies or actions of another government. In at least two and perhaps as many as 10 incidents, U.S. aircraft landing at the base were hit by laser beams.

China dismissed US accusations that its lasers in Djibouti were blinding US pilots, saying the claim is "completely out of line with the facts." China dismissed the false accusations through official channels, China's defense ministry said in a statement on 04 May 2018. After careful checks, China has made it clear to the US that the accusation is completely out of line with the facts, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing. China always strictly abides by international laws and is committed to safeguarding regional security and stability, said the defense ministry. China is a signatory of the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, but has been accused of producing them, the British magazine said.

Chinese literature describes extensive research and development on directed energy beam weapons. Directed energy weapons may threaten ground, sea, and air assets, and represent significant Chinese defensive and offensive firepower. Several on-going research areas may produce a DE weapon, including a Chemical Oxygen-Iodine Laser (COIL). In September 2006, the Chinese used a high-powered laser to illuminate a US satellite- an action that can potentially “blind” or damage sensitive electronics and sensors. US intelligence asserts that China could eventually field a laser capable of destroying, not just blinding, satellites.

In a January 2018 paper published in the journal Science Direct "Impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small-scale space debris removal”, a team from China's Air Force Engineering University propose a giant laser station attached to a satellite orbitting Earth could obliterate the space junk. The laser would fire 20 times per second at targeted debris, blasting them into smaller pieces so they pose no threat to Earth and also clear the way for new satellites. The team wrote: "It provides [the] necessary theoretical basis for the deployment of a space-based laser station and the further application of space debris removal by using [a] space-based laser.”

The world's first ruby laser was invented by U.S. scientists in 1960. Since then, laser technology has achieved rapid development and has been widely used in industry, medical science, information science, biotechnology and military. The laser has good directional characteristics. It can concentrate light well on a very small area of the object. For example, the flashlight that usually used is divergent, and the laser pointer used in lectures and classes is a light with high degree of convergence. In addition, the high illuminance of the laser, the sun's direct sunlight to the ground is generally several hundred watts per square meter, and the laser illumination can reach several kilowatts per square centimeter. It is through this feature that scientists use high-power lasers to transmit long distances and project them onto targets, destroying target structures through thermal ablation, and destroying or incapacitating targets.

It is reported that China Academy of Engineering Physics and its affiliated companies are working to develop a higher-powered compact laser interception system, and will soon launch a modular and practical equipment with farther distances and different security scenarios, and form serialized products to meet major requirements.

At present, many countries, including China, are carrying out research on laser weapons. Among them, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Israel and other Western developed countries are actively developing high-powered laser weapons. The laser is one of the important weapons in the future battlefield. Among them, the United States holds a leading position in the field of laser weapons development. It has successfully developed a variety of laser weapons. After decades of research, laser weapons have become increasingly mature today and will play an increasingly important role in the battlefield.

A Royal Australian Navy helicopter pilot was hit by a laser while in the disputed South China Sea 28 May 2019. The Royal Australian Navy helicopter was conducting drills in the South China Sea during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 - a two-month series of drills between Australian troops and service members from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. After the reported incident the pilot had to land his helicopter as a precautionary measure.

The US Navy claims a P-8A Poseidon belonging to the service was hit with a laser fired by a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer last week while flying over international waters. The 27 February 2020 release issued by the US Pacific Fleet's public affairs office reported that the maritime patrol aircraft was "lased" some 380 miles west of Guam, and that the laser was "not visible to the naked eye," but was detected by a "sensor" onboard the Poseidon. The US Pacific Fleet cited violations in the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Memorandum of Understanding between the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China. "Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems," noted the service.

laser attack pod

The Chinese military is procuring a laser attack pod, which Chinese media speculated could be an aircraft-based tactical weapon. If equipped on aircraft, the laser could potentially protect against incoming missile attacks and dominate in close-range combat. The procurement plan for the laser attack pod was revealed 04 January 2020 in a notice released on the Chinese military's weapon and equipment procurement website, Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, reported on 06 January 2020.

The notice included the title of the procurement, but the details remained confidential. Weihutang speculated that the laser attack pod was likely an airborne tactical laser, noting that if the weapon was used to guide bombs rather than directly attack, it would be called a laser guidance pod. The report said China has already developed a prototype for an airborne laser weapon, citing a publically available academic thesis.

An airborne laser weapon could intercept incoming missiles and shoot down hostile aircraft in a dogfight. At Airshow China 2018, state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) showcased the LW-30 laser defense weapon system, which could use a directional-emission high-energy laser to intercept aerial targets such as photoelectric guidance equipment, drones, guided bombs and mortars. This genre of weapon has not yet seen wide deployment due to remaining technical difficulties including power supply and energy loss problems.

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