Chinese Official: Smog Is Ideal Defense Against U.S. Lasers

A Chinese official claimed the country’s thick smog is an ideal defense against U.S. laser weapons.

Navy Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong of the People’s Liberation Army said on Chinese television last week that the lasers were “most afraid of smog.”

The solid-state laser will be deployed on the U.S.S. Ponce and a Chinese official said smog would greatly reduce the laser's capability.
The solid-state laser will be deployed on the U.S.S. Ponce. A Chinese official said smog would greatly reduce the laser’s capability. (Image source: U.S. Navy)

The Chinese National Defense University military expert is taking flak on the Internet for the comments he says were then taken out of context about the U.S. Navy’s soon-t0-be-deployed first laser weapon aboard the U.S.S. Ponce.

“Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10 kilometers,” Zhang said, according to the South China Morning Post. “When there’s smog, it’s only one kilometer. What’s the point of making this kind of weapon?”

Zhang’s assessment immediately drew criticism on popular Chinese social media sites, but the defense specialist said his comments were taken out of context. The version of his interview that aired was cut by 10 minutes or more, but also featured Zhang saying that the laser weapon’s enemy at sea was saltwater spray, which could rust or damage it.

In the test video released in 2013, the Navy laser successfully shot down a drone. (Image source: U.S. Navy)

“What I said was totally accurate, 100 percent without error,” he said. “What other people said is second- or third-hand interpretation … I just stated a laser weapon’s weakness.”

“I don’t support smog,” Zhang said.

The U.S. Navy says the Laser Weapon System – also called LaWS – is an “endless magazine,” which reduces the cost of fire and eliminates the need to rearm. “As long as we have generators able to be fueled gives us, until the end of our fuel supply, the ability to generate energetic fires against an enemy.”

The laser weapon is designed to fire infrared energy that can burn through drones and smaller boats that threaten deployed U.S. forces, and the Navy plans to deploy the weapon on the U.S.S. Ponce later this year. Ideally, the system would replace the need for costly short-range missiles, which can run up to $1.4 million a piece.

The Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze about how smog or various weather conditions would affect the laser’s performance. However, L3 Integrated Optical Systems director Don Linell told the New Scientist their goal is to improve the system’s performance with atmospheric phenomena like fog, rain, and airborne sand and dust, which can slash the infrared laser beam’s power and range.

“Weather is an issue for any optical weapons system,” Linnell said, “The environmental impacts on the laser system have been characterized and our efforts continue in this area.”

To see the laser take down a drone in clear skies, check out this video:

 (H/T: South China Morning Post)

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