The Chinese military has begun equipping its soldiers with handheld laser guns, in direct contravention of international treaties banning the use of blinding laser weapons. The PY132A laser gun, revealed during the Chinese Police Expo in December, is designed to blind enemy sensors and cameras and intended for use against enemy vehicles and drones, Popular Science reports.
In 1998, China signed a United Nations Convention that prevented the development of Certain Conventional Weapons [CCW], which included blinding laser weapons that could be used against humans. While the Chinese military claims that its PY132A laser are for use against mechanised combatants, it remains possible for the weapons to be used against humans, intentionally or not. The scattering effect of laser beams means people are at risk of being struck in the eye, risking blindness.
“China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations,” the official military newspaper PLA Daily reported on 9th December, via The Washington Free Beacon. “Blinding laser weapons are primarily used to blind … targets with laser[s] in [the] short distance, or interfere [with] and damage … laser and night vision equipment.”
“The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” a State Department official warned.
The US is also worried that these weapons could make their way on to the global arms market, with Chinese weapons systems expert Rick Fisher saying, “There is a strong possibility these new dazzlers are being marketed for foreign sale.”