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.
Low Altitude Guard I
In order to deal with “low, slow, and small” threat, in 2014 China had successfully tested its own laser anti-aircraft defense system capable of knocking down small unmanned vehicles flying at low altitude. According to the information agency Xinhua, the range of the facility is two kilometers, and it can hit the target within five seconds after its detection. The maximum height at which a laser can shoot down a drone is 500 meters, and its speed should not exceed 50 meters per second. Specialists from the Chinese Academy of Technical Physics, who participated in the development of the laser system, note its rapidity and noiselessness. According to them, usually the interception of small drones is part of the task of snipers or combat helicopters, but the new installation is much more successful in coping with this task.
The Chinese laser can be installed on an ordinary truck. According to its creators, during the tests the device was able to knock down more than 30 drones, without missing any goal. Engineers of the academy promise to continue to improve the installation, increasing its strength and long-range. While the power of the device is 10 kilowatts. The machine specially targets small-scale drones flying at low attitude, and is able to shoot down various small aircraft within a two-kilometer (1.25 miles) radius — which it can do in five seconds after locating its target — according to a statement released Sunday by the China Academy of Engineering Physics, one of the system’s co-developers. Characterized by its speed, precision, and low noise, the system is designed to destroy unmanned, small-scale drones flying within an altitude of 500 meters and at speeds below 50 meters per second.
“Intercepting such drones is usually the work of snipers and helicopters, but their success rate is not as high and mistakes with accuracy can result in unwanted damage,” said Yi Jinsong, a manager with China Jiuyuan Hi-Tech Equipment Corp., a group under the academy spearheading the project. According to Yi, small-scale, unmanned drones are relatively cheap and easy to use, which makes them a likely choice for terrorists. In addition, concerns have been raised over drones engaged in unlicensed mapping activities and the affect this could have on military and civil aerial activities.
The new laser system, which will either be installed or transported in vehicles, is expected to play a key role in ensuring security during major events in urban areas, the statement said, adding that a recent test saw the machine successfully shoot down more than 30 drones, which has a 100 percent success rate.
The academy revealed that it was developing similar laser security systems with greater power and range.
Low Altitude Guard II
The Low Altitude Guard II laser is one of the most powerful operational laser weapons, designed to shoot down drones. Poly Technologies revealed new details about its lethal laser gun at the Africa Aerospace and Defense 2016 tradeshow in South Africa.
Built as a joint venture by the Chinese Academy of Physics Engineering and Jiuyuan Hi Tech Equipment Corporation, and marketed by Poly Technologies, the Low Altitude Guard I first debuted in 2014. LAG I was marketed as a law enforcement/counter terrorism tool, using its electroptical sensors to target errant and rogue UAVs. By knocking small targets down using lasers, the changes of collateral damage were reduced compared to explosive anti-aircraft artillery or missiles.
Chinese laser technology is compact enough to put a 30 kilowatt laser on a four wheel light truck. Compared with its predecessor, LAG II is more apparently militarized. Its range is doubled to 4 km and has a 300 percent increase in maximum power output to 30 kilowatts. That's comparable to the Laser Weapons System (LAWS) installed on the USS Ponce, which has a power of 15-50 kilowatts for attacking UAVs, small boats, and helicopters.
The LAG II has a removable dome that protects the laser's electro-optical camera and active components when not in combat. The LAG II can be either mounted on a medium sized truck, or a 6X6 armored personnel carrier, to provide frontline protection against small drones. The LAG II's electro-optical guidance system is suitable for knocking out drones, but would require more sophisticated fire control sensors to target fast-moving objects like incoming artillery shells, cruise missiles, and rockets.
Silent Hunter / Low Altitude Laser Defending System (LASS)
China's Poly Technologies defence marketing company used the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi from 19-23 February 2017 to reveal its Silent Hunter fibre-optic laser air defence system. The system was used to help defend the 4-5 September 2016 G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, and is a more advanced version of its Low Altitude Laser Defending System (LASS) that was displayed later that month at the AAD defence show in South Africa. LASS has a maximum power of 30 kw and a range of 4,000 m. A Poly official said the Silent Hunter is capable of power levels greater than 30 kw, but less than 100 kw. LASS is designed to defend against large numbers of slow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In its fixed and mobile versions, Silent Hunter comprises a separate medium-truck size power unit and a similar sized equipment unit for the laser. Poly officials said that Silent Hunter is too heavy to develop into an airborne laser as currently configured.
China showcased an anti-drone laser weapon at an exhibition, as experts said on 29 May 2018 that the weapon could empower counter-terrorism efforts. China's Poly Technologies Inc displayed Silent Hunter at the May 23-26 V International Exhibition of Weapons Systems and Military Equipment (KADEX 2018) in Kazakhstan last week, according to a statement released by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence on its website.
More than 400 companies from 55 countries and regions participated in KADEX, one of the most influential weaponry exhibitions in the Central Asia region, according to the statement. There was a massive demand for China's tactical laser weapons on the international market from police and military customers, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.
Silent Hunter can be deployed either by police for counter-terrorism or by the military for air defense, he noted. The laser weapon in question can intercept low-altitude, slow-speed and small aerial targets including drones. The weapon system's strong anti-jamming capability, high accuracy and low cost also played to its advantage, Song said.
With the fast development of unmanned aircraft technology, drones are easier to obtain and are capable of carrying payloads, providing tools for criminals and terrorists to commit crimes or launch terror attacks. Silent Hunter helps police intercept drones. As a tactical laser weapon, it can also be used by air defense forces whether on stationary or moving vehicles or naval vessels, Song explained.
During the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, Silent Hunter was deployed to provide aerial safety, UK-based Jane's Defence Weekly reported in February 2017. "China has a long history of developing tactical laser weapons," Song said. "They are the focus of future weapon development of the People's Liberation Army." They will play an important role, especially in anti-missile, anti-satellite and air defense, he said.
LW-30 anti-aircraft laser
The 13th edition of China's largest aviation exhibition Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) 2018 in Zhuhai near Hong Kong, November 6-11, had a prototype of the LW-30 anti-aircraft laser system. The state-owned company China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) presented its solutions in the field of, among others, anti-aircraft artillery and missile systems, including the short-range and medium-range FK-1000 set known to the car chassis from 2014, equipped with twelve two-stage KS-1000 missiles.
However, the prototype of the LW-30 anti-aircraft laser system, based on the modified Wanshan WS2250 6x6 family, developed by Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle and being a copy of the American Oshkosh HEMTT (Heavy Expand Mobility Tactical Truck) vehicles were more interesting. It is worth noting that the Americans had reecently tested on the 8x8 chassis the HELMTT (High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck) laser system with 10-50 kW power.
According to the disclosed information, the LW-30 system consists of a command and communication vehicle, a combat vehicle with a laser system effector and support vehicles. According to the designation, the laser power of an unknown type is 30 kW. Based on the published photograph, it can be concluded that the set consists of a tracking system, an optoelectronic head and probably power and cooling systems placed in a container.
The system was developed for the destruction of military and commercial unmanned aircraft, light, manned aircraft, missiles, artillery and mortar (C-RAM), as well as to incapacitate sensors for photoelectric guidance devices (night vision devices, thermal imaging sights, etc.) . LW-30 is characterized by high precision and long-lasting work of the laser beam. The effective fire range is currently 25 km, although the tests had not been completed and the target parameter values had not been achieved.
LW-30 is not the first system of this type developed and tested in China. At the beginning of December 2017, the domestic company GuoRong Technology presented a video recording, on which a mobile laser set mounted on the chassis of a civilian Isuzu Elf truck, smote a commercial DJI Phantom 3 type binary from a distance of about 1 km using a several-watt laser beam. The system burned a small hole in the bsl that fell to the ground as a result of damage.
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 weain.mil.cn, 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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