China Reportedly Has Developed a Laser Assault Rifle, But Some Are Calling it a Hoax

Thursday, 05 July 2018 - 11:02AM
Technology
Thursday, 05 July 2018 - 11:02AM
China Reportedly Has Developed a Laser Assault Rifle, But Some Are Calling it a Hoax
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Image Credit: Joshua Livingston CC BY 2.0
When it comes to military-grade weaponry designed to cause maximum damage to a target, mankind has (for better or worse) had that figured out for quite some time. CNET reports that the Chinese government has gone with a "non-lethal" approach to weapons development and has used advanced laser technology to create an assault rifle that can take burn through a target's clothing and skin and even set them on fire with a beam that is invisible to the naked eye.

Originally reported in the South China Morning Post, a prototype of the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle was built by a company called ZKZM Laser and tested at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The weapon weighs about the same as an AK-47 and has a range of a 1/2 mile. The power source is a lithium battery that will allow for the operator to fire two-second bursts up to 1000 times per charge. A representative for ZKZM Laser told SCM Post that they are seeking a partner (someone in the security or defense industry that has a weapons license) to help take the weapon from the prototyping phase into production. The cost for each ZKZM-500 would be around $15,000.

At least one expert says that such a weapon would be impractical at best. In an interview with C4ISRNET.com, laser safety officer Phil Broughton called BS on the claims. "To make this work, you need a serious battery pack, some even more serious capacitors, optics that can take all this without turning back into sand at these energy densities, and rugged enough that you can treat this like military hardware,"  Broughton said, adding, "This is a 'best case scenario operation only' weapon if there ever was one."

A laser rifle that hurts instead of kills (the pain is described as "beyond endurance") sounds like a more humanitarian approach to defense, but things can go very bad if the rifle gets into the wrong hands. The invisible beam can target perpetrators in hostage situations and be used in covert operations, but as a researcher told SCM Post, "nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident." Sniper rifles can already be used to assassinate people, but at least with those you can track the bullet trajectory or maybe use fragments and shells to identify the weapon and the shooter. If a laser rifle sets someone on fire or burns through a gas tank, the Stormtrooper who fired it will probably never be caught. There is also talk that the weapons could be used on "illegal protestors" to destroy banners and interrupt chants, which opens up another can of worms that we will put a pin in for now.



Cover image Credit: Joshua Livingston on Flickr, CC BY 2.0
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