Laser canons to zap high sea pirates

January 10th, 2011 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 10 (IANS) Laser canons mounted on ships and boats could zap pirates trying to board them.

The non-lethal weapon, which has been developed by defence firm BAE Systems, is effective against moving targets more than a mile away.

The company has started developing the laser in response to the growing threat from pirates to commercial vessels, particularly off the coast of Somalia where there have been several high profile hijackings, a Telegraph report said.

The device effectively hides the vessel carrying it in a bright green glare from the laser, forcing the pirates off course and leaving them unable to aim their weapons accurately, the report said.

“We are using the laser as a kind of dummy sun that we can hide the vessel behind,” said Roy Clarke, BAE Systems’ advanced technology centre.

“As you go up in power with a laser, you get to a point looking at it creates a big bright light that dominates everything in your field of view.”

BAE has conducted trials on the laser at the Pershore Laser Trials Range in Worchester.

It can work in daylight as well as night by directing a concentrated metre-wide beam of bright green light at a target which can temporarily dazzle anyone who looks at it.

The system is being developed so that it can be used with high frequency surface radar that can pick up the kind of fast small vessels used by Somali pirates, the report added.

The system would then automatically direct the laser towards the target. It can also rapidly fire beams at multiple targets to produce an intensive flickering effect that increases the dazzle affect.

The laser uses powers within the safety limits that do not cause blindness in case the system mistakes an innocent vessel as a threat.

More than 600 sailors are currently thought to being held hostage by Somali pirates, who have hijacked 47 vessels this year. There were 440 piracy incidents worldwide in 2010 and 51 hijackings.

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