Better not get on their bad side!
The Chinese army has laser guns. Let that sink in for a second.
No, I’m not talking about something from Star Wars; this isn’t science fiction. These are real weapons that, according to Popular Science, “could potentially also shoot down enemy artillery shells, rockets and missiles.”
These weapons could be used for all kinds of purposes: to destroy enemy thermal imaging technology, knock out security cameras, damage sensors or blind vehicles, and the list goes on. They are also being marketed as a police and law enforcement tool.
Whether the lasers are manned or attached to unmanned robots, the 1998 Protocol on Blinding Lasers prohibits them being used against people, but machinery is still fair game as far as international protocols are concerned. However, one doesn’t always come without the other. Pilots could easily be blinded while lasers are directed at their aircrafts’ sensors.
A team of Chinese researchers, led by Professor Zhi-Yuan Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Physics, managed to decrease the size of the weapon to the size of a suitcase, so the laser is easily mountable on various vehicles like tanks and aircrafts.
“This is a groundbreaking achievement. Nobody has generated a laser at such a high frequency on a single piece of crystal before. Their technology will significantly simplify the process of ultrafast laser production and reduce the size of relevant devices," a professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing who requested anonymity and was not involved in the research told the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese army isn’t the only one that has been looking into laser technology. According to a Scout.com article that described a program that is developing laser weapons for American aircrafts, “laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.”
Being able to precisely attack an enemy vehicle without causing an explosion that could injure civilians would be a valuable tactical option. Furthermore, a laser weapon could fire many more times than a traditional one could: “Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.”
Whether these weapons will become mainstream on the battlefield in the future is yet to be determined, but China is willing to sell the technology to any foreign law enforcement or counterterrorism agency around the world.