A Chinese firm has developed a laser gun designed for police use that can set fire to protesters’ hair or banners from a range of almost 1km.
The general manager of the ZKZM fiber laser company, who asked to remain anonymous, said the weapon would “immediately” produce a “strong pain response” in the target, but stressed that it was designed to be “non-lethal.”
“The weapon is designed to do things such as setting fire to illegal banners at a protest or setting fire to the hair or clothing of a protester,” he said.
“It is not designed explicitly for killing like a gun that uses bullets and cannot cause the ‘instant carbonization’ of human skin and tissues,” he added.
The “15mm caliber” weapon weighs 3kg, has a range of 800m and can pass through glass and other transparent obstacles.
It can be mounted on cars, boats and planes, the firm said, adding that it was “seeking a partner that has a weapons production license or a partner in the security or defense industry to start large-scale production.”
It is “mainly expected to be for Chinese police use,” the manager said.
It would have to be upgraded to a “laser cannon” — with increased power — to become lethal, he said, and confirmed his firm was working on such a weapon.
However, there is an international agreement not to develop killer lasers and the manager said any such weapons would be “inhumane ... the pain would be unimaginable.”
Some experts were skeptical, saying laser weaponry was still a matter of science fiction.
Specialist Web site Techcrunch said “laser weaponry capable of real harm has eluded the eager boffins of the world’s militaries for several reasons”.
“The power required to set a person aflame instantly from half a mile [0.8km] away is truly huge,” the Web site said. “The idea of one that weighs a handful of pounds and fires hundreds of instantly skin-searing shots is just infeasible today.”
Development of such laser weapons is not limited to China, with all the big defense players in the US working on prototypes for the Pentagon.
Lockheed Martin last year announced a 60-kilowatt laser weapon that is invisible to the naked eye and is to be deployed against mortars and small drones.
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