How China’s military has zeroed in on laser technology
The Pentagon this week claimed two US pilots were injured when military-grade laser pointers were shone into their eyes from China’s navy base in Djibouti as the Americans came in to land at the US base.
US officials made a formal diplomatic complaint and demanded Beijing investigate, with the defence department saying there had been similar incidents for weeks at its base in the Horn of Africa nation.
Beijing has denied the allegations.
As part of China’s push to modernise its military technology and equipment it has been developing laser weapons – ranging from low-powered tactical beam emitters to a high-energy strategic weapons system. These are some of the latest tactical laser weapons China has revealed in recent years.
A ground or vehicle-based laser weapon system, its 10 kilowatts of power can cover an area of 12 sq km. It was used to shoot down more than 30 small air vehicles – including fixed-wing, multi-rotor and helicopters – during tests, with a 100 per cent success rate, according to the first official disclosure in 2014. It can destroy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, within a range of 2km – flying lower than 500m – in about 5 seconds. The technology was developed by the China Academy of Engineering Physics for security purposes around “major events in urban areas”. A system with greater power and range for ships is under development, according to Xinhua.
The Silent Hunter
Used for security at the G20 summit in Hangzhou in 2016, this 30-100kW vehicle-based laser weapon system has a maximum range of 4km. Its laser beam can cut through a 5mm steel sheet from 1km away, or five layers of 2mm steel sheets from 800m away, according to its developer China Poly Technologies. It was first unveiled at the South African Air Show in 2016.
Guorong-I anti-drone system
A short-range ground-to-air laser weapon system, it has a detecting radar, electro-optical interference device and high-power laser ejector that can shoot down a UAV in seconds from hundreds of metres away. The system was developed by Guorong Technology, China Electronics Technology Group and the public security bureau, according to PLA Daily.
Light Shield comprehensive optoelectronic defence system
This vehicle-based air defence system targets incoming aircraft, a vehicle’s electro-optical pod or transmitter, or a missile’s optical guidance system. Developed by China Electronics Technology Group, it combines early warning, identification and interference devices and has a laser generator to damage or destroy the target. It has been installed in Chinese army armoured vehicles and was unveiled at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2014.
Individual laser weapons
China has also developed several types of low-power laser guns, which are used to dazzle or blind the enemy from a short range, or to damage the enemy’s night-vision devices. Four types of laser guns – the BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler Weapon, the WJG-2002 Laser Gun, the PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon and the PY131A Blinding Laser Weapon – were revealed in a report by state-run Global Times in 2015.