Indian Army to Use Dazzlers
DELHI, India, Aug. 17, 2007 -- India's army plans to add to its aresenal portable nonlethal laser "dazzlers" that could stun and temporarily blind opponents, the Press Trust of India (PTI) and other Indian news sources reported today.
The Laser Science and Technology Centre, part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, has developed two typs of the dazzlers -- weapon-mounted and handheld -- suitable for counterinsurgency operations, PTI said, quoting a defense source. The dazzlers for use on existing weapons were tested in Kashmir in October 2006 and will be used by the army possibly by 2008 "against militants operating in the hinterland of Kashmir and against those infiltrating into the state across the line of control," the news agency said.
The Defence Research Development Organisation signed an agreement in November with SDS Electronics Pvt. Ltd., a security equipment maker of Panchkula, India, for the transfer of technology for both versions of the dazzler. PRI said the devices use diode-pumped solid-state lasers with a wavelength of 532 nm and weigh 850 g. The handheld and weapon-mounted versions have a maximum range of 50 and 500 meters, respectively, and the weapon-mounted version has an integrated daylight sight. The dazzlers also have an integrated low-power red laser beam for aiming in twilight darkness and in-built safety interlocks.
"Both variants are completely nonlethal, directed-energy weapons employing intense visible light and produce randomly a flickering green laser output that is sufficient to cause temporary blindness or disorientation," the article said.
Its sources claimed they do not cause permanent blindness. Weapons that cause permanent blindness are prohibited by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, Protocol IV of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. (The prohibition does not cover blinding "as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment." [Article 2].)
The US military announced in May it will issue dazzling lasers to be attached to M-4 rifles to troops in Iraq. The weapon is intended to provide a nonlethal method to detain drivers who fail to stop at checkpoints manned by US soldiers. The proposal attracted criticism from human rights groups, who maintained that the weapons can cause permanent vision damage.
China has already deployed the ZM-87 blinding laser, which resembles a machine-gun on a tripod mount. Although banned in many international treaties, China is offering the dazzler for export on the world market, according to the American Foreign Policy Council. "The US military has deployed no effective counter-measures for the 'dazzler,' such as protective glasses for soldiers, and American pilots rely on night-vision equipment that cannot block the intense light beam," according to the council's Web site.
LE Technologies LLC of East Hartford, Conn., sells a compact high-power Laser Dazzler, "for vision impairment at distance, in very bright ambient conditions, including clear, sunny daylight." Its Web site shows photos of the USS Massachusetts using the Laser Dazzler.
Torrance, Calif.-based Intelligent Optical Systems Inc. has introduced a laser-free incapacitator -- a sort of alternative stun gun -- that produces a dazzling display of blue, green and red lights that temporarily disorient anyone who looks into the beams.The LED Incapacitator, or Ledi, is intended as a close-range deterrent in law-enforcement situations such as border control as an alternative to more primitive and potentially harmful methods like tasers, pepper spray or billy clubs.
Bob Lieberman, president of Intelligent Optical Systems, said the company looked into developering a laser-based device but decided, given the rapid advances in LED technology, that LEDs are more flexible, power efficient and inherently safer and more difficult to defeat than laser dazzlers.
"There is a dazzling effect," he said, "but in situations we're talking about, it gives the user a critically needed interval in which they can take advantage of the situation and do what they need to do." Depending on how many LEDs are used and how they are configured, the device could be used in close- to long-range situations, Lieberman said.
Because the device uses multiple wavelengths and frequencies, in addition to having an immediate dazzling effect, with longer-term use it could eventually result in severe disorientation or possibly vertigo and, in some cases, nausea. But Lieberman said, "We're really not trying make people sick. We are trying to make it difficult for an adversary to approch the user." The company is working with the Institute of Non-Lethal Defense Technology at Pennsylvania State University, which is testing the Ledi for any potential side effects. Liberman said it is also working on proprosals for military projects and various other customers.
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