Blinding and vision-disruption by visible and IR lasers in third world inventories are primarily low-power systems, which limits their retina damage to a range of about 2NM. The primary threat for aircrews would be the ND:YAG laser, which is invislble and painless during exposure, and capable of retina damage to a range of about 3NM. Iraq, with its extensive mix of western and Communist-block systems, was expected to deploy the full spectrum of available tactical lasers.
During the Iran/Iraq War, Iranian soldlers suffered over 4000 documented eye casualtles from Iraqi laser systems, enough to indicate Iraq's employment of some laser systems specifically for their casualty-producing effect. The Iranian casualties showed effects caused by different types of lasers, which was indicative of the mix of western and Communist-block systems in the Iraqi inventory. The injuries, described as retinal burns and hemorrhages, reportedly were caused by a laser device associated with Iraqi tanks. The reported injuries could have been inflicted by a visible or near-infrared laser, most likely a tank-mounted ruby or neodymium/glass laser rangefinder. Laser eye injuries probably occurred as a result of the use of tank-mounted laser rangefinders or other laser systems. These systems possibly were used in an offensive, antipersonnel mode, with the explicit purpose of blinding troops. Hand-held laser rangefinders and designators associated with armor or artillery could be used in an attempt to dazzle, disorient, or blind personnel in low-flying aircraft (fixed and rotor wing). Lasers also have been purchased by Iraq presumably for military application. It was reported that Iraq fielded these lasers as antisensor or antipersonnel weapons; however, no confirmation exists to support this report.
While range and power considerations made their use more difficult against aircraft than ground personnel, a soldier possessing such a system would attempt to use it when under air attack. The Iranian fighter/bomber pilots routinely avoided low level tactics over Iraqi ground troops, thus providing no historical data for assessment.
Daytime tracking of aircraft would obviously be easier for the laser operator, accomplished by binoculars mechanically boresighted to the laser system. Daytime dazzle effects, however, are reduced due to the eye's adaption to bright, daytime light. At night, the operator has a considerably more difficult time aiming the device, but its effect is several magnitudes higher due to the increased sengitivlty of the night-adapted eye.
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