by David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
January 17, 2005
In the future, our infantry forces might employ non-lethal "laser dazzlers" to blind and disorient enemy soldiers, insurgents, and terrorists in order to capture them alive and preclude the need to kill them, so we can interrogate them. Or, the high-tech weapons can be used as a precursor to firing lethal munitions. The development of these "stun" lasers is of course in congruence with the development of highly lethal weapons-grade lasers that can be used on everything from men to missiles (provided anti-personnel use complies with Hague). Either way, things aren't really looking too good for the enemy.
The real breakthrough allowing infantry warfare application of these non-lethal laser weapons systems is the development of a system that can overcome anti-laser goggles and contact lenses, which are able to filter out laser light, and thus counter the laser's blinding and/or disorienting effect. Apparently, scientists at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) have been working on an adaptive laser dazzler that can counter/overcome these anti-laser specs. Funding for the project came from the DoD-backed Non-Lethal Technology Innovation Center (NTIC). According to Noah Shachtman of DefenseTech.org, here's how the new laser system works:…
"The machine sends out an initial laser pulse, to look for where a lens is, and how much it's being shielded. The reflected glint from the lens gives away both its position and its level of protection. The device then changes the power and direction of its second blast, so that the lens is overwhelmed." NTIC Director Glenn Schwaery describes the process like this: "If someone puts on sunglasses on, it measures the reflection, and then it gives off a brighter flash, to compensate."
Mr. Shachtman has written a very informative piece on several non-lethal infantry warfare-application laser systems, including the UNH-developed laser dazzler described above, for Military.com SoldierTech. Another laser system he discusses in the article is the Saber 203 Laser Illuminator, which has a range of 300 meters, using a laser that's generated by a state-of-the-art semiconductor that's been fitted inside a standard, unmodified M203 40mm grenade launcher. The Saber 203 is being developed by the Directed Energy Directorate (DE)of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Here's what the DE/AFRL has to say about the Saber 203 Laser Illuminator:
"The Saber 203 Laser Illuminator temporarily impairs an adversary’s ability to fire a weapon or to otherwise threaten friendly forces. Designed by the Laser Division of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate for military and law enforcement agencies, the non-lethal Saber 203 briefly illuminates an opponent with harmless, low-power laser light. Realizing he has been targeted, the aggressor hides or flees rather than risk death by aiming his weapon and attracting defensive fire.
Having an effective range of 300 meters, Saber 203 uses a state-of-the-art semiconductor laser specially fitted into an unmodified M-203 40-millimeter grenade launcher. Boresighted for accuracy, the grenade launcher is attached to a standard M-16 combat rifle.
The Saber 203 system has two parts. A hard plastic capsule about the size and shape of a 40-millimeter grenade houses the laser emitter. An operator loads the capsule into the launcher like an actual grenade. The second component is a small control box that snaps on to the launcher’s underside. A button on the control box “fires” the laser in a continuous beam to illuminate a target. In an emergency, the capsule can be ejected quickly and replaced with a grenade.
Lightweight, simple to operate, and easy to handle, Saber 203 can also be used as a laser designator. It can counter night vision devices. Saber 203 was used successfully in 1995 by U.S. Marines in Somalia during Operation United Shield.
The successes of the Saber 203 has led to the system being picked up by an Electronic System Center’s system program office for actual commercialization, sale and deployment. Units in the field should soon have a very effective, non-lethal choice of action."
Hm. DefRev must say that we don't really like the idea of converting perfectly functional and lethal M203's to less-lethal light-emitting devices designed to scare the enemy into submission. Let's just hope that our faithful soldier equipped with a Sabre 203 doesn't run into any situations that require the employment of 40mm grenades to solve, like aggressive and determined insurgents or terrorists.
"The Battlefield Optical Surveillance System, or BOSS, is a grouping of lasers, optics, sensors and communications equipment mounted on a High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, pronounced “humvee”). Initially envisioned as a mobile counter sniper platform, BOSS has evolved into a working concept of a covert surveillance/detection system with the ability to visibly–or invisibly–designate a battlefield threat. BOSS has the following components that can be powered by either an external gas-powered generator on the HMMWV or through a bank of batteries for more covert operations:
Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR): Sees in the 8-12 micron range of the spectrum, detecting temperature differences between bodies that can easily see hot vehicle components from the heat they generate.
Infrared Camera/Illuminator: Uses backscattered infrared (808 nanometers) illumination to light up an area of interest at distances up to one kilometer. Optical Augmentation (glint) from an individual’s rifle scope/binoculars or even a person's retinas provides a means of detecting that individual. Variable focus on the illumination/camera can then determine, without alerting the suspect, whether the person is carrying weaponry or is moving suspiciously. The infrared laser can also be used to covertly designate (spotlight) a person for night vision capable forces.
Visible Laser: A doubled Nd/YAG (green) laser or an optional red laser can also be used to visibly designate a threatening individual. The threatening individual’s reaction to visible illumination can help determine his intent: if hostile, direct force can be used, and if non-hostile, firing lethal rounds can be averted. As used in the battlefield, both lasers will not harm eyes.
Microwave Relay: Allows the operator to transmit the Forward Looking Infrared and Infrared camera video to a command post, up to 10 miles away.
In operation, BOSS requires two people: a driver and an operator. From the passenger-side back seat, the operator controls all imaging systems and the lasers (infrared and visible). Two remotely controlled gimbals on a turret on the roof of the HMMWV hold the optics and lasers. The lasers and battery power systems are housed inside the vehicle, behind the operator. Forward Looking Infrared video and Infrared camera video are displayed on screens at the operator’s console. The video signals are transmitted to the command post via the microwave relay."
Click here to read Noah Shachtman's Military.com SoldierTech Article, titled "BEDAZZLED: 'Laser Dazzler' Beams Disorient Enemies". Military.com SoldierTech is a DefenseReview.com content partner.
It should perhaps be noted that Noah's article doesn't contain any information on the original Laser Dazzler™ Non-Lethal Laser Weapon originally developed by LE Technologies, LLC and now manufactured and marketed by LE Systems, Inc., out of East Harford, CT. According to the company, the Laser Dazzler™ "engages the target in a wall of green laser light overloading the optic nerve rendering the subject nearly sightless for a brief period of time." Hopefully, the compensating technology being developed by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) team can pe applied to theLaser Dazzler™.
Anway, here's what the company has to say about the potential military applications of the technology:
"The desirability of the Laser Dazzler™ for “peacekeeping” missions can be vividly demonstrated on the evening news from the Middle East.
Rock throwing mobs can be neutralized by taking away their vision. While they are stunned by the light, military personnel can close the distance and bring the ringleaders into custody with minimal personal risk and without firing a shot.
The need for non-lethal technology in the military is expanding. Particularly on peacekeeping missions, the application of deadly physical force is strictly controlled, and area commanders have a real need for force they can use without creating an international incident."
The company lists the following military-applicable uses for the technology:
"- The ability to create a greater standoff distance or de-escalate a potentially violent encounter with non-lethal technology can greatly improve the politically sensitive peacekeeping role
– Embassy and Government Building Security
– The ability of the individual soldier to apply non-lethal force from a distance
– Search and Reconnaissance Missions
– Shipboard and Perimeter defense systems
– When coupled with a motion detection system, the Laser Dazzler™ is an ideal non-lethal passive perimeter defense system.
– Integrated Robotic and Drone Applications
– Weapons Integration
– Higher Powered Laser Dazzler™ Technology through the 100 kilowatt range
– Coast Guard applications for boarding, search and seizure missions
– Robotic and drone applications will reduce human intervention and possible serious injury or fatal incidents"
LE Systems Inc. believes that law enforcement SWAT/SRT teams and LEO First Responders can also benefit from the Laser Dazzler™ technology. Here's the company's literature on SWAT/SRT applications for the Laser Dazzler™:
"When a well-trained team swings into action it can be a thing of beauty to behold. Honed by hours of practice, each squad member knows his role and understands the need to cover his teammates. A sequence of individual movements is choreographed into a cohesive whole as officers maneuver into position.
Suddenly someone peeks out a window for no apparent reason and the team is exposed. Shoot to kill and risk hitting the wrong person? Or do nothing as the SWAT Team's movements are exposed, and risk the lives of your fellow officers?
Now there is a third choice. Laser down the window and deny all within any view of the exterior. Sure they know something is happening, but they don't know from whom or where the threat is coming. Laser Dazzlertm will deny vision to an entire side of a house, without inadvertently harming friend or foe. If there is armed resistance from the target they will be firing blind while the sniper cover officer has them illuminated in his scope. And if there is a child with a teddy bear peeking out his window, everyone will live to laugh about it later."
For LEO Patrol High Risk Motor Vehicle Stops:
"A lonely stretch of highway, a single officer stops a suspicious driver harboring felonious intent. Is he armed? Is he dangerous? Is he waiting to make his move? Or is he a law-abiding citizen hurrying home to a loving family? How to stay safe while searching for answers is what training is all about. But even more than training, a good officer sometimes needs an edge. Laser Dazzler™ can be that edge.
As the suspect vehicle is pulled to the shoulder, the Laser Dazzler™ is directed toward the side view mirror. Immediately the interior of the subject's car is bathed in a blinding green light. Unseen behind the "optical wall" the officer approaches carefully looking for weapons, searching for clues, demanding answers. All from a position of relative safety as the driver sees only green, from top to bottom, left to right.
A suspect is in no position to assess his chances of escape because he cannot see the road ahead or the officer behind. And if the officer is wrong and his abundance of caution has been employed against the governor of the state himself, no harm no foul. Laser Dazzler™ is non-lethal and eye safe at the aperture, and we're confident the governor would approve."
Click here to download and view a video simulation of Laser Dazzler employment during a High Risk Motor Vehicle Stop.
For LEO First Responder Emotionally Disturbed Person (EDP) Response:
"An Emotionally Disturbed Person call is challenging for any law enforcement agency. Logic might dictate talking an EDP "down", but compassion must be tempered by caution, for although frequently more of a danger to themselves than others, an EDP call is by definition an illogical encounter.
Laser Dazzler™ offers the tactical officer on the scene a way to interact with an EDP without inflicting pain. Maneuvering behind the optical wall effect, officers can apprehend the suspect before he or she knows they are near. And at the end of the day, the needs of the Emotionally Disturbed Person and society's needs for order in public spaces are met in a humane fashion."
Click here to download and view a video simulation of Laser Dazzler employment during an EDP response.
Click here to download and view a video simulation of Laser Dazzler employment during a burglary in progress.
Here's the contact info for the Non-Lethal Technology Innovation Center (NTIC) team at the University of New Hampshire (UNH):
Director: Glenn Shwaery
Program Coordinator: Patty O'Neil
NTIC at the University of New Hampshire
33 College Road
Durham, NH 03824 USA
Email: [email protected]
Voice 603 862 4540
Fax 603 862 0700
Here's the contact info for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory:
Here's the original LE Technologies, LLC list of contacts (taken from their original website and other internet sources) if you'd like to get more info on the Laser Dazzler™ Non-Lethal Laser Weapon:
President / COO:
727 – 937 – 3600 (Office)
727 – 937 – 0799 (Fax)
Research and Development Office
860 – 633-0459 (Office)
860 – 291-9475 (Fax)
Director of Training and Application Development:
Jay D. Kehoe
Research and Development Office
860 – 633-0459 (Office)
860 – 291-9475 (Fax)
Addendum (1/20/05): DefenseReview tried contacting LE Technologies, LLC, today, discovered that the contact numbers listed above for them are no longer valid. DefRev will try to find out if the company is still in operation, and what's going on with the Laser Dazzler™, as soon as possible. The company's website now appears out of operation, as well, perhaps in response to this article. It should be noted that LE Technologies, LLC's website was still in operation when this article was written.
Addendum (4/04/05): Defense Review has been contacted by Chris Figures, who is the web designer for LE Systems, Inc., which is, apparently, the parent company of LE Technologies, LLC. He informed us that the new internet home for the Laser Dazzler™ is http://www.laserdazzler.net.