Is China Deploying Handheld Laser Weapons?

PY132A-Blinding-Laser-Weapon

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army may be equipping their troops with new handheld laser weapons. Not quite phasers from Star Trek, or blasters from Star Wars, these weapons are designed to blind sensors, and possibly enemy personnel, preventing them from accurately deploying their own lethal weapons. The Washington Free Beacon covers the weapons and their being a possible violation of a 1998 international agreement:

China’s military has equipped its forces with blinding laser weapons in apparent violation of an international agreement signed by Beijing.

“China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations,” the official military newspaperPLA Daily reported Dec. 9.

“Blinding laser weapons are primarily used to blind … targets with laser[s] in [the] short distance, or interfere [with] and damage … laser and night vision equipment,” the brief photo report stated.

A State Department official expressed concerns that the weapons appear to violate a provision of the United Nations 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The convention includes a 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons banning their use in combat.

WJG-2002 laser

WJG-2002 laser

“The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” the official told the Washington Free Beacon, using an acronym for the 1980 convention.

China agreed to follow the prohibition in 1998, according to the convention’s website.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment about the laser weapons.

“The U.S. already has a problem with laser pointers being directed at in flight aircraft,” Daly said. “If these laser guns make their way here, we are very likely to see aircrews actually blinded during flight and possibly worse.”

In response to numerous incidents of laser pointers being used to illuminate commercial aircraft pilots in flight, the FBI last year launched a campaign offering rewards for people illegally firing laser pointers at aircraft cockpits.

laser-drawing

laser drawing

“When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots,” the FBI said in a statement.

The Air Force is reportedly developing airborne lasers for use against enemy aircraft, drones, or missiles. The Navy has deployed a Laser Weapon System to defend ships against drones, small boats, and submarines.

However, the military has no plans for laser rifles similar to the Chinese guns.

Rick Fisher, an expert on Chinese weapons systems, said the PLA has at least two types of laser guns and may be seeking to sell them abroad.

While not currently observed for sale at the global arms exhibitions, Fisher said Chinese arms sellers attending arms shows likely interacted with foreign customers for the lasers.

PY132A-laser

PY132A laser

“There is a strong possibility these new dazzlers are being marketed for foreign sale,” he said.

According to the article, the new laser weapons were being demonstrated in a recent Chinese expo in early December, and are portrayed as being police weapons only. The concern is that the weapons, if offered up for international sale, could present a hazard to aircrews and other personnel.

The US military has been working on laser weapons for surface- and air-based offensive use, as evidenced by recent testing of an offensive laser aboard the USS Ponce, and a General Atomics release announcing testing of a new 150-kW laser weapon. These weapons are not mere blinding laser, but actual destructive tools, though still most likely to be used against sensors and other fragile targets.

BBQ-905-Laser-Dazzler

BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler. Image source: FreeBeacon.com, via WeaponsMan.com

PY132A-Blinding-Laser-Weapon

PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon. Image source: FreeBeacon.com, via WeaponsMan.com

WJG-2002-assembled

WJG-2002 laser weapon. Image source: FreeBeacon.com, via WeaponsMan.com

 

The new Chinese laser weapons are not even remotely powerful enough to replace the small arms in use today, but they are a good benchmark for how far the technology has come, and how far it has left to go before true handheld offensive laser weapons become practical.

H/T, Hognose of WeaponsMan, who also has his own excellent article on the subject.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • PK

    Once again, your article tags are simple phenomenal.

    • Yes, but how misleading do you feel is my title?

      • PK

        Seems fine to me. Weaponized “dazzle” lasers are still weapons, no? They may not be portable cutting lasers, but we’ll get there as portability and compactness of energy storage devices comes along. These things take time.

        • PK, it’s another in-joke. Some of my commenters have, um, expressed discontent with the titles of some of my articles.

          • mdemetrius

            Just call it like you see it, bro.

          • Mystick

            I believe the phrase, in context, is “Click-bait”…

  • BattleshipGrey

    2015, year of the weaponized laser.

  • iksnilol

    WOOOOOOOO!

    Points in energy weapons is finally paying off! 😀

    • Ian Jordan

      Psh, I bet you maxed out your intelligence too. Wuss, real men take on groups of deathclaws with maxed out strength and a power fist, like our savior Vault-Tec™ intended.

      • iksnilol

        I actually did… so that I could level up faster and max out all my stats faster. So I could become an übermensch in a walking tank.

    • Southpaw89

      I’m more of a guns & repair type. Or in the case of 4 non automatic and gun nut. If I cant pick ’em off at 1000 yards with a suppressed sniper rifle I’m not having fun.

  • Dracon1201

    Uhhhh… General Atomic, laser weapons, and China.

    Watch out for 2077 my friends…

    • DW

      No need to fear if Liberty Prime gets completed before 2067

      “Death is a preferable alternative to communism”

    • TDog

      Hey, I intend to either be in a Vault or ghoul out (non-feral, hopefully). Either way, I’m good with how things will play out. :-D.

      • wzrd1

        I’ll be long dead by either date.
        In 2067, I’d be 106 years old. That is just so not in the cards.

  • Robert Rodriguez

    All we need now are retro 1950’s vehicles with nuclear reactor engines, power armor and some Nuka-Cola!

    • TDog

      I’m still waiting for plasma guns…

    • SP mclaughlin

      War. War never changes.

      • Mystick

        Maybe… maybe… maybe…

        I’m surprised someone hasn’t made a “Mr. Handy” with an Arduino yet.

    • The Brigadier

      Personally I want one of the Enclave’s plasma’s rifles. And your power armor has got be one of the T-51s suits.

  • TDog

    You know, for looking so cool, it’s a damned shame these things only dazzle. In my opinion, if it has rails, it should have killing power! 😀

    • mdemetrius

      The truck mounted ones have bigger batteries, I’ll bet.

  • Carl

    That’s a lot of space wasted for a crappy laser pointer and some AA batteries…

    • JoelM

      Hey that’s an offensive generalization of chinese products. I’ll have you know this uses D cells.

      • wzrd1

        Really? No endurance, I’d have used F cells.

  • MPWS

    Since the vision (your own or enemy’s) is the most sensitive part of weapon/ammunition delivery, it only makes sense to concentrate on it. Let’s call it “soft power” against brute power of bullets and missiles. West or any other aggressive force must come to realisation that China has mature technology and is able to defend itself. The finding and realisation must come be it gentle of hard way.

    • Bill

      So says the Chinese propaganda agent

      • wzrd1

        There is an ancient truism in war, “*Never* get into a land war in China”.

        • The Brigadier

          We don’t have to.

          • wzrd1

            Because the Long March 2D can’t hit back?
            Nuclear weapons are best used as a deterrent than as a primary weapon.
            Or are you of the persuasion that as long as one American man and one American woman survive, we’ve won?

    • The Brigadier

      A Chinese general wrote a piece in 2005 that said the only way the the Chinese people could survive the coming shortages of food, water and energy was to invade North America and kill all the inhabitants in the three nations and take over the resources. His name is Chi Haotian, the Vice-Chairman of China’s Military Commission to top officers and generals. He wasn’t censored for his threatening article that was published and spread by China’s government.

      He claims because three of the Mayan’s thousands of ancient character’s resembles three of China’s characters that this “proves” that the Chinese had to have visited South America long before the Spaniards and the Portuguese explorers arrived. This is what he uses as the excuse to have the right to take it back. He also contends that the Chinese did not come from Africans even though Spencer Wells proved that their males carry the same genetic marker of “Adam” as every other male on the planet does.

      China defending itself is not the issue MPWS. Like all communists they feel justified for invading, killing and stealing the lives and resources of non-communists and will justify it with the silliest and moronic reasoning to justify their murderous actions. Blood on our hands? We have several weapon systems that can kill every Chinese in their country and their will be no blood. Pass that on to your commie masters and be very, very careful who you threaten.

      • wzrd1

        Let me get this one straight, the Chinese have right of memory to South America, therefore they’ll invade North America?
        That’ll be one whale of a road march, what with the Pacific Ocean in the way.
        As the PRC has precisely one blue water naval vessel, yeah, it’ll be a really wet road march.
        As he’s 86 years old, he’ll be long dead before a third blue water naval vessel is completed.

        Perhaps you should not confuse senility with intent.

        • The Brigadier

          The Mayan culture extended from lower Central America to Mexico and they had extensive trade with several of the South American empires. The writings of the Mayans in questions were found in South America a result of that trade. Geologically, Central America is part of North America.

          China has just built the largest Navy in the world complete with aircraft carriers, attack submarines, missile frigates, cruisers and destroyers. I suggest you do your homework first before claiming they have only one blue water vessel.

          • wzrd1

            Mayan culture traded up into North America, as in what is now the US. But, Mayan culture is universally different than Chinese culture of the last 5000 years.

            Chinese subs are still loud, nowhere as bad as the old Han class, but still fairly loud.
            One aircraft carrier, the majority of PRC naval assets are brown water naval forces, littoral only.
            I was deployed to Camp Lemmonier when the first PRC blue water vessel made a patrol past and into the Med.

  • John

    WAIT! Are you saying the Chinese might not be playing by the rules?!?!?!

    I AM SHOCKED……just SHOCKED!

    • mosinman

      THIS IS AMERICAN PROPAGANDA, PAY IT NO MIND -CCTV

    • mdemetrius

      Me, too. Inconceivable!

  • Sgt. Stedenko

    Meh,
    When they mount these on sharks, I’ll be impressed.

    • Ian Jordan

      They need warm meals to dangit

  • Sgt. Stedenko

    So the State Dept is concerned with blinding enemy combatants via a laser but have no qualms about spreading DU around some other countries or droning someone via a Hellfire in a non-declared war zone without due process?
    More boogeyman scare tactics.

    • Bill

      And we deploy plenty of lasers already. “Eye Safe” doesn’t really mean much, though I really wonder just how much of a danger they, and hobby drones, are to aircraft and crews.

    • DaveP.

      Tinfoil just isn’t enough for you is it? Try sheet lead.

    • Edeco

      You know, there’s a ritual to these things: We give them guff, they give us guff.

      I don’t take it literally. It’s like whalesong between military-industrial-complices. Think of this as our side going *yowl, squeal, squeak, click, click, click, grunt*.

    • Cpl. Okedets

      Boohoo.

    • The Brigadier

      Killing jihadists with Hellfire missiles is fair game. They kidnap and rape women because they can’t get a girlfriend and they kill indiscriminately by beheading anyone who objects to their murderous actions. Stedenko you are one of Prime’s enemies you commie. We have many more options for getting rid of the jihadists as soon as your hero is out of office.

      • Sgt. Stedenko

        Never voted for a D in my life, but nice of you to ASSume.

        Calling me a commie. Are you in third of fourth grade?
        ‘Merica!

        • wzrd1

          Sarge, I don’t think that they teach fourth graders about communism these days. 😉

          That said, I changed parties after I had to calm men going out on patrol of their fears that their homes would be in flames, courtesy of “second amendment remedies”, during a certain election.
          The overwhelming majority of senior NCO’s and most of the commissioned officers all changed parties when we redeployed home.
          I will never forgive that sub-party for that. That BS could’ve distracted them and got them killed and hence, it’s unforgivable.

          • Sgt. Stedenko

            I came to a realization about 10 years ago that both parties are two sides of the same coin.

            As Mark Twain once said, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”

          • wzrd1

            Hence, why one votes disruptively. Vote for an outlier like Sanders.
            Or, vote for Mikey Mouse or Reagan and be ignored.
            Enough disruption will mean that the power brokers toss the dog a bone, a potential way to take back our nation.
            It beats guns vs nukes.

            Or the rest of our arsenal.

        • The Brigadier

          You sound just like any of the Progressive’s who come in periodically. “America is evil!” I’ve heard that mantra from the Left from too long and also from the Paulites. Libertarians are simply the flip side of the same coin, the only difference is you like guns.

  • The real question is at what distance are they blinding? Because if they can blind from say, 1 mile out, that would be a tremendous asymmetric advantage at the small unit level.

    Equipped with decent optics, it would be much, much easier to make a “headshot” with a laser rifle from 1000+ yards than it would be with conventional small arms due to the perfect trajectory and speed of the beam.

    • Mystick

      Caught blindsided….. [knee-slap]….

  • Southpaw89

    I imagine these could cause serious problems for attack aircraft. Although the same technology that goes into the auto darkening welding masks could provide some level of defense.

    • The hit probability of a laser like this would probably be better than an MG or other light surface weapon, and having a blinded, but still operational enemy attack helo in your airspace is a lot better than having one that’s just been missed a lot by ground fire.

      • Wetcoaster

        Even if the aircrew are protected, blinding the optical sensors of an attack helo severely curtails its effectiveness, the same way shooting out the optics of an MBT impedes its ability to actually shoot things

        • wzrd1

          Not to mention the sheer havoc the thing would raise on snipers.

    • The Brigadier

      So would mirrored glass, but that would make the jet bloom on radar. Mirrored goggles or helmet face shields would also work and might not give a big radar return.

      • wzrd1

        Which bandwidth, gennie?
        Visible light, ultraviolet light, xray, IR?
        Any of which requires a response, as in the real military world, all are of grave concern.
        Or are you a magic man, propose magical solutions where non are available?

        • The Brigadier

          Whichever is needed dumbass. Do you bother to think before you write? Apparently not, but you continue to embarrass yourself in post after post.

          • wzrd1

            Ah, so now the laws of physics don’t matter, “whichever is needed dumbass”.
            OK, let’s see now, which material do you use to reflect 865nm laser and 1065nm laser fire?
            You obviously don’t think and are incapable of basic laser physics, let alone how to properly use punctuation.
            If we had Brigadiers like you, we’d have lost every war we ever fought. You’re not even up to the quality of a brand new butter bar.

  • mechamaster

    Oh, Well, the era of handheld direct-energy-weapon already brewing-up.

    • The Brigadier

      Energy weapons are expensive to make and the power is used up very quickly in battery powered units. As blinding units they can be defeated by goggles. Laser rifles if ever perfected will truly be nasty battlefield weapons. Rail guns are much closer to becoming battlefield weapons both by troops and larger ones mounted on vehicles. There have been some remarkable battery innovations and a few of them can be applied to Li-Ion batteries now, and a few other new portable battery technologies are only a few years away from production. Hand held infantry weapons will have the potential capability of firing a tungsten/steel dart out to 5 KM/sec. Battlefield survival is going to become a rare thing when these new weapons become a reality.

  • Andrew Dubya

    Okay, like some protocol would stop a runaway .gov like China. Let`s just skip over the decades spent under their own self-imposed Iron curtain and the red guard, they`d be happy to sell us crappy knockoffs of American products while espousing the US as greedy and Materialistic.Besides, since when has China taken any US mandate, protocol, treaty or act seriously? I`m only surprised it took this long.

  • Calvin Connelly

    No 40 watt range=No buy. 😉

  • Secundius

    A “Laser Designator”, will do the Same Thing. If I can “Incapacitate” someone, simply by BLINDING the Enemy, that ENEMY is No Longer A Threat…

    • The Brigadier

      Of course a cheap pair of mirrored lens sunglasses will defeat the Chicom’s weapons. “Down with all commie bastards!” Let’s vote for Liberty Prime for President and save our eyesight.

  • Anomanom

    I am suspicious. One of these is listed as the BBQ-905.

  • Mystick

    Let me get this straight. The US people are worried about a Chinese weapon that could possibly be deployed against aircraft while currently deploying weapons of similar, but scaled, nature for specific use against aircraft. The argument being made that the technology could cross borders and end up somewhere besides its country of origin… an activity for which the US has long had hands permanently dyed red from all the blood over the years.

    Pot, I would like you to meet Kettle…

  • Adam

    Norinco has been building Laser blinding weapons for years.. Useful blinding ranges 5-7km…. And off the top of my head, North Korea has used them.. Nothing like being able to blind your opponent well out of small arms range.

  • This comes from violating Deut 28:12, earning God’s wrath, and spending $30,000,000,000+ a month to pay the INTEREST on our national debt. This is one of the curses that follow, Deut 28:43, China became the head and we the tail.

    • The Brigadier

      Yes, we owe them around 3 trillion right now. It was as high as 5 trillion about five years ago. We owed Japan 6 trillion about fifteen years ago and that debt is now under a trillion. It can be paid off if we have the will to do it.

  • Jamie Clemons

    “The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” “The US military has been working on laser weapons for surface- and air-based offensive use” Do as we say not as we do.

    • wzrd1

      I was unaware that shooting down artillery and missiles that are coming in is offensive!

      Indeed, clearing mines with similar lasers somehow is offensive too!
      Compared to, oh say, China’s blinding lasers.
      Yeah, US anti-weapon lasers are offensive and PRC blinding lasers are defensive.
      In Orwell’s world.

      • Jamie Clemons

        It was a direct quote from the article. I assume they meant the laser could also be used for offensive as well as defensive purposes?

  • Jamie Clemons

    The Terminator:
    “Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range”

  • Ken

    There are no rules in love and war. And the US quote makes us sound whiney and weak.

    • The Brigadier

      The fear is proliferation and if Chinese is selling them to our other enemies besides them then we have a right to protest and take action. We will find out who they sell them to and they won’t like our response. It won’t be whiny.

      • wzrd1

        So, that gives the PRC and Russia the right to object to our selling smart bombs and other weapons to people that they don’t like having them, right?
        Well, I know one thing for certain, you’re no BG in any US force – ever. Just another armchair general, who thinks he knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t.

        • The Brigadier

          Son we follow weapons proliferation and there are numerous treaties and UN resolutions dealing with violations. From economic sanctions, to the boarding of ships openly or quietly by our special forces. It happens all the times, and its now being considered openly against N. Korea right now for transfer of nuclear parts or fuel to other lawless states. We do share technology with our allies such as NATO and Israel. You already got one post completely wrong above so please save your stupid insults. You apparently know little about the world and history or much about anything else.

          • wzrd1

            We board ships under UN mandate, not randomly boarding ships for chuckles, as that is piracy. North Korean vessels and others that are searched for contraband are done so under UN mandate, not out of our unilateral decision to commit piracy on the high seas.
            Are you next going to suggest we hire privateers?
            The point here is the PRC is allowed to also share their weapons with allied nations, just as we are allowed to do so.
            It seems that you have no knowledge of international law, ratified treaties or even what force a ratified treaty has under our Constitution.

      • Ken

        Oh I don’t know, pretty much everything the US does these days is whiney and weak.

        • wzrd1

          Why don’t you go tell that to bin Laden?

  • JoelM

    You can probably already buy a laser that powerful on ebay.

    • wzrd1

      Nope, the closest are industrial lasers, with their massive power supplies.
      This is likely a beefed up laser diode, two orders of magnitude higher than a laser pointer.
      Laser pointers range between 1 and 5 milliwatts. To reach a kilometer and be effective, one would need at least 5 – 10 watts, as the inverse square law is just that, a law of physics.
      If you don’t know what the inverse square law is, Google “inverse square law”. It’s why TV transmitters need to transmit in megawatts and why those super bright headlights aren’t all that bright from a mile away.

      • JoelM

        I didn’t say a laser pointer. I know the difference. There are a lot of industrial lasers made in China and the surrounding countries and they’re for sale on ebay. A quick search came up with handheld fully contained “laser show” units in the 10w range meant to be a novelty item but capable of cutting cardboard, and then 20W units in the same $400 price range that require a power supply.

        • wzrd1

          True, but not everyone knows the lower wattage, harmless lasers used in laser pointers and the more powerful industrial lasers.
          Actually, cutting some items in bulk could be more than a novelty as part of a business.

          I saw those 20W units myself, they’re on my to-do list to experiment with, as making a power supply would be trivial for me.

      • The Brigadier

        Laser pointers can’t exceed 3 Mws in America. We used to have 10 Mw units, but no more. That’s why ISIS didn’t blind any of our pilots with those attacks a few days before the Paris attacks. Their laser pointers were simply not powerful enough at that range.

        • wzrd1

          You don’t go on ebay or Amazon much, do you? 10mw laser pointers are plentiful. 100mw, those are a bit more expensive and harder to acquire.

          • The Brigadier

            If they are being sold here then the sellers are breaking the law. I’m sure since the government monitors this site, they will look into it pretty quickly like today.

          • wzrd1

            Indeed, so the government only monitors here and not sellers?
            I can legally purchase lasers in the kilowatt range, that is the law. They’re not a WMD or other restricted technology and they’re not an NFA weapon either.
            How a laser is used is controlled by law, not the mere possession of the laser. The only restriction is that an eye safe laser is marked that way and non-eye safe lasers have warning labels attached.

  • Mazryonh

    There is nothing more important to a soldier than his eyes. You made him a soldier… and now you will unmake him! -Colonel Volgin, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

    And now we can do it en masse via these new lasers. Will those “nuclear flash goggles” that instantly turn opaque when detecting too much light soon be standard-issue for everyone on foot patrol?

    • wzrd1

      The “nuclear flash goggles” started opaque, they didn’t magically dim.
      That said, there are protective goggles for lasers, tuned for the frequency of the laser.

      • Mazryonh

        I thought that the anti-flash goggles were intended for aircraft pilots in case they happened to be looking in the direction of an unexpected nuclear blast. You have to see to pilot an aircraft effectively, so why would they start opaque and keep the user from seeing the environment and the controls?

        If anti-laser goggles only work against a specific frequency, what stops the enemy from using lasers in another frequency to bypass that protection? It also means you can’t see your own beams acting as tracer rounds.

        • wzrd1

          They start opaque because of how bright a nuke is and the fact that it takes longer to darken than the crew’s eyes can withstand. They also wore an eye patch, so that if one eye was blinded by a nuke’s flash, they’d still have a good eye.

          Changing a solid state laser’s frequency requires changing the solid state laser. Changing frequency isn’t someone done with tuning. There are some goggles that will protect from two common bands, but none to protect against all bands.
          The idea is to dazzle the target, so it wouldn’t matter if the beam was visible in dust in the air. If blinding was the purpose (permanent), an IR laser would fit the bill nicely.

          • Mazryonh

            The fact that there will always be a band that will “leak through” most anti-laser goggles means that there should be at least one opportunity for users of laser dazzlers to blind the opposition through their goggles. It could just be as simple as developing different models emitting different frequencies and deploying them at random.

    • The Brigadier

      Yes and that’s why they were developed. We also knew someone would make a laser weapon like ours and now that we know it was the Chinese that’s another nail in their collective coffin.

      • wzrd1

        Can you name a single nation on this planet that has a modern military and does *not* have laser dazzle weapons?
        We’ve had them for well over a decade, as has Russia. If we’ve got it, NATO’s got it.

      • Mazryonh

        Why would their developing laser weapons cause the general public in 1st world countries to bat an eye? If the were stockpiling chemical weapons, maybe. But I don’t see how developing lasers is another mark against China.

  • cnile1

    The US had these for years already, but agreed not to use in war, but can use on us for riots etc. NOT a new toy!