A report over the weekend warns that Chinese-based companies are in an arms race to deploy deadly laser weapons that are man-portable.
The South China Morning Post, a large Hong Kong English-language newspaper, said the AK-47-sized ZKZM-500 laser rifle is able to “instantly carbonize” human tissue, set a person on fire, and make them feel “pain beyond endurance” at ranges reaching some 800 meters.
Built by ZKZM Laser, the weapon, expected to cost about $15,000 when it reaches production, is powered by a “rechargeable lithium battery pack similar to those found in smartphones” and could fire some 1,000 shots, each lasting about two seconds.
Some in the West are already raising the BS flag.
“There’s just no way that a laser powered by a lithium-ion battery that a person could carry would be capable of producing the kind of heat described at point-blank range, let alone at 800 meters,” said Devin Coldewey in an article for TechCrunch. “That’s because of attenuation. Lasers, unlike bullets, scatter as they progress, making them weaker and weaker. Attenuation is non-trivial at anything beyond, say, a few dozen meters. By the time you get out to 800, the air and water the beam has traveled through enough to reduce it a fraction of its original power.”
Coldewey points out that high power laser weapon systems in development in (known) programs in the U.S. are very large due to the energy demand of such platforms, leaving them so bulky as to be mounted on ships and vehicles.
Currently, the U.S. has been deploying handheld laser dazzlers such as the 250mW Glare LA-9/P, and the 125 mW 532P-M, for almost a decade, and the Marines are set to field the Meyer LA-22/U to project a “veiling glare” out to several kilometers. Considered eye safe and unable to blind–which is against the Geneva Convention– it is designed to disorient the target and obscure their vision.