The Military and Using Lasers as Weapons

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					Laser weapons were made famous by movies such as -œStarwars-• but until
recently laser weapons have only belonged to the realm of science
fiction. Recent innovations and improvements in laser technology have now
made the development of real laser weapons possible. This article
discusses how advanced and widespread laser weapons are and what form
they are in.      International laws for laser weapons

  In 1995 the Conventional Weapons Convention in Vienna banned the use of
laser weaponry on the battlefield that were "specifically designed, as
their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause
permanent blindness to unenhanced vision". Due to a loop hole this ban
hampered but did not stop the development of laser weapons the leading
developer, the US military.      Current Developments       In 2002 the
U.S. Special Operations Command handed a contract to Boeing to develop an
Advanced Tactical Laser (ATP) that was to be airborne and used for ultra
precision strike missions. The laser itself is a closed-cycle, chemical
oxygen-iodine laser (COIL). Based on the 1995 ban, this laser is not
designed to cause blindness. It is much easier to blind a person driving
a vehicle than to immobilize the vehicle itself so it remains to be seen
what the actual purpose of the ATP is.      In another laser weapon
development, the US Department of Defense (DOD) awarded Northrop Grumman
the Joint High-Powered Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) project. The objective
of this project is to produce a 100kW laser that can destroy rockets,
mortars and artillery. The US airforce also added precision strike as
one of the projects objectives. Northrop Grumman says the project is on
schedule and they will reach the 100kW goal by the end of 2008.       Not
to be outdone by the airforce, the US army has awarded Boeing a 36
million dollar contract to develop a truck mounted laser cannon known as
the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HELTD). Once again the
purpose of this laser weapon is to shoot down rockets and artillery
shells but the HELTD would also be very effective at blinding enemy
combatants.      The US is far from the only country seeking to develop
or use laser weapons. Earlier this year the Canadian military drew harsh
criticism over a $10 million laser weapon acquisition project. Those
laser weapons are portable lasers that are designed to -œtemporary blind-
• people at 50 to 500 meters. This purchase is controversial because it
is seen as violating the 1995 ban. This project is presently awaiting
approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKa.      On a more peaceful and
positive note, Dedicated Systems in Australia has developed a Airborne
Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS). This system works by using an
airborne light detection and ranging blue-green lasers to detect,
localize and classify mines over a large area of the ocean.       Outcome
Laser weapons are widespread and range in form from large aircraft and
vehicle mounted to mobile and hand held. At present the smaller more
mobile dazzling (blinding) type laser weapons are already deployed and
the larger more powerful lasers should start becoming operational with in
a year.      Click here for laser safety glasses & goggles Related
Articles - laser, safety, glasses, eyewear, eye, eyes, lasers, goggles,
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