Dont hinder development of laser countermeasures

To The Editor:

The article "Optical Warfare: Technology emerges to see the enemy, and to blind him," in the March 1997 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics was a creditable treatment of a very complex subject. However, I would like to correct some statements which were not totally accurate.

There is no international law which explicitly bans the military use of anti-personnel lasers. In fact, a 1988 opinion by the Judge Advocate General of the Army, with the concurrence of the offices of the Judge Advocate Generals of the Navy and the Air Force, concluded that the use of a laser as an antipersonnel weapon would not violate the law of war prohibition on superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. This became and remains the position of the United States. A new international "law" on laser weapons, referred to as protocol IV under an existing treaty, has been proposed by a United Nations Review Conference. The United States supports Protocol IV and DOD has issued policy prohibiting the use of laser weapons as defined by this Protocol. The essence of Protocol IV is contained in the following four Articles:

Article I: It is prohibited to employ laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices. The High Contracting parties shall not transfer such weapons to any State or non- State entity.

Article II: In the employment of laser systems, the High Contracting Parties shall take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidence of permanent blindness to unenhanced vision. Such precautions shall include training of their armed forces and other practical measures.

Article III: Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment, is not covered by this Protocol.

Article IV: For the purpose of this Protocol, "permanent blindness" means irreversible and uncorrectable loss of vision which is seriously disabling with no prospect of recovery. Serious disability is equivalent to visual acuity of less than 20/200 Snellen measured in both eyes.

It is a misperception that tactical laser systems must pose a significant danger to eyes. Short-pulse, visible-laser irradiation is the worst hazard for the eye, yet more than ten millijoules total interocular energy would be required to cause permanent blindness as defined by Protocol IV. The hazard to the eye decreases if the laser operates outside of the visible spectrum. Even at arms length from the eye, a typical laser designator operating at 1.06 microns has insufficient output energy to permanently blind. To my knowledge, there has not been a single military laser accident resulting in permanent blindness to both eyes. In fact, it would be a significant technical challenge to design a man-portable laser that had the capability to cause permanent blindness in a realistic battlefield scenario. On the other hand, to design a counter-sensor laser with acceptable ocular hazard is relatively straightforward. The laser designer has several parameters to work with in minimizing ocular hazard:

- knowing range to target, control output energy to achieve desired effect at a level below threshold of serious eye damage;

- selecting a wavelength to optimize effects on target but minimize hazard to eye;

- using continuous-wave or longest pulse possible; and

- maintaining tight beam on optical target to minimize overspill on nearby personnel.

It is a gross exaggeration to associate laser countermeasures with "mass blinding." The laser is a tool literally of surgical precision. It is capable of placing a beam smaller than 16 inches in diameter onto a target at a distance of one mile. It is certainly not a practical weapon of mass destruction. Just to scan a 5-by-40-degree sector of the battlefield with this "pencil-beam" of light would take over three hours at 100 pulses per second. The laser is a very discriminating optical countermeasure - ineffectual unless the threat optic is looking (aiming) directly at the soldier/laser system.

Using a laser to temporarily and safely disable a combatant is practical under certain circumstances. It is an oversimplification to claim the energy necessary for flashblinding is close to the energy threshold for serious eye damage. There are many variables that determine a laser`s effect on the eye. For example, to attempt flashblinding during the day with a short pulse, high rep rate, green laser , could cause permanent eye injury (though not necessarily "permanent blindness"). However, flashblinding at night can be accomplished using a continuous-wave green laser at power levels below even conservative laboratory standards for eye safety.

Laser countermeasures to threat optics and electro-optics represent a revolution in warfighting capability, and constitute an appropriate element of "information warfare." Several countries are developing such laser countermeasure systems. The United States can be an owner or a victim of this capability. Responsible development of lasers and of eye/sensor protectors will ensure that our soldiers have every possible advantage on tomorrow`s battlefield.

Wayne Grant

U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command

Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate

Fort Belvoir, Va.

Wgrant@nvl.army.mil


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.


Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

CPU-PPC460EX-VME Processor Board

The CPU-PPC460EX-VME PowerPC processor board is designed for rugged, conduction and convection co...

XFP Transceiver Modules

Quagwire Technologies offers a full catalog of 10GbE Optical XFP Transceivers encompassing 10G pr...

ClipIR Small Clip On Thermal Imager for Fused Night Vision

ClipIR - Small Clip-On Thermal Imager for Fused Night Vision (thermal imaging/ I2) to see in tota...

MicroCAM 2 Thermal Imaging Modules

Thermoteknix’ patented shutterless MicroCAM® 2 thermal imaging module – a featherweight 30g (1oz)...

Scantech Laser Pvt. Ltd.

Scantech Laser designs & manufacture custom built laser machines for all global industries of tod...

VDK3000 - Laser Deposition or Cladding

Metal Laser deposition and cladding solution. ModusCAM Solidworks path planning

VDK4000 - 3D Printing

F.R.E. - Flexible Robotic EnvironmentDirect writing 3D robotic systemModusCAM - Solidworks path p...

TiCAM 750 Handheld Thermal Imaging Binoculars

Handheld thermal imager for military and civilian applications including special forces, search &...

SpectraTec X

The SpectraTec X, a Multi-Laser Source is the first all fiber technology for combining up to 4 in...

LASCAD

Thermal and Structural FEA, Gaussian ABCD and Physical Optics Code are integrated in LASCAD to an...

Related Companies

Beyond Electronics Corp

Beyond Electronics(BEC) provides Rugged COTS board and system level solutions in various small form factor products c...

Federal Electronics Inc

Provides electronic manufacturing services focusing on military/high-end commercial applications. Services include ad...

TE Connectivity

Designs and manufactures a range of connectors, rugged electro-optic components, and assemblies, RF products, wire, c...

Sabritec

Specializes in the design and manufacture of filter connectors, Fibre Channel, Ethernet, IEEE 1394 FireWire, electro-...

LEONI Fiber Optics Inc

Manufactures electro-optic devices for spectroscopy, laser delivery and manipulation, sensing, and process control. P...

Gooch & Housego Plc

World leading expertise across a broad range of optical technologies including acousto-optics, electro-optics, fiber ...

Amphenol Industrial Operations

Provides a range of high reliability connectors and interconnection systems specifically for industrial markets, incl...
Wire News provided by   

social activity

Webcasts

Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Digital signal processing for signals intelligence and electronic warfare

Military & Aerospace Electronics presents an expert Webcast on the design considerations for blending general-purposes processors (GPUs), general-purpose graphics processors (GPGPUs), field-programmable ...
Sponsored by:

Advantages of Intel Architecture Products and Wind River Solutions in Military & Aerospace Applications

This webinar explains the individual advantages of the Intel Architecture hardware, available for long-life supply, and the WRS software portfolio.  There are extraordinary advantages of combining such ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors

View the 2014 Buyer's Guide Now!


Mil & Aero Magazine

October 2014
Volume 25, Issue 10
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE