back to article Pentagon in uproar: 'China's lasers' make US pilots shake in Djibouti

The US military has formally complained to China after blinding lasers were fired at Uncle Sam's aircraft coming in to land at the American airbase in Djibouti. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said two US military pilots suffered minor eye damage from lasers hitting the cockpit of their C-130 transport airplane landing at Camp …

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  1. Anonymous C0ward

    Bomb it. This is an act of war.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Welcome to The Register, Mr Bolton!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Dr. Strangelove I presume?

      Bombing a country owning around 260 nuclear warheads doesn't seem a good idea, does it?

  2. thames

    Laser canon and sonic death rays.

    As the story notes, loads of these incidents happen in the US all the time. They are caused by scrotes with laser pointers. I don't see why Djibouti would be any different and I suspect that the importation of laser pointers in terms of power and frequency sees a lot less regulation there.

    This smacks of the American story about the Cuban sonic death ray supposedly being directed at their embassy personnel in Havana. That would be the Cuban sonic death ray that no other country finds credible. Canada has investigated it and come to the conclusion that the sonic weapons theory isn't plausible. The Americans none the less persist in blaming Cuba.

    1. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      I would also note that the story does not come from a credible source. Can we get a second opinion?

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        also note..... When it comes to serious laser pointers ( 2000mW and up handheld ) , the leading global brands are.... US companies...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

          also note..... When it comes to serious laser pointers ( 2000mW and up handheld ) , the leading global brands are.... US companies...

          And they are made..... where? Yeah, China and sold all over the world. It may not even be the Chinese but a bunch of locals "playing" with them.

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

            It may not even be the Chinese but a bunch of locals "playing" with them.

            You don't think that the US will be able to place the source of multiple incidents against military aircraft with high accuracy? And that they'd be very careful about making an accusation against the Chinese base?

            If it is locals within the Chinese base, then either the Chinese are utterly incompetent at checking who the let in and what they're doing, or they're complicit, probably using "expendable" operatives. My money's on it being deliberate, but done simply as some form of "we're heeeeeere!" harassment. Just like Russian fighters buzzing US warships in international waters, or US surveillance flights up the Gulf of Finland. Or Iran and others undertaking proxy attacks to make a point, or Israel doing frequent random attacks on neighbouring countries.

            They're all at it, just the techniques vary, and totalitarian regimes have a freer hand and a big bit more spine for the more aggressive options.

            1. c1ue

              Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

              If the pilots are being blinded - who exactly is attributing the source? It isn't like you can follow a laser on radar, and the blinded pilot can hardly be the one.

              Also, if we're talking about a couple of miles away, we're talking some serious targeting capabilities. I'm not at all sure any normal weapon system is so accurate as to place a beam on a pilot's face while landing, from 2 miles away. Atmospheric conditions alone would introduce a lot of error.

              Lastly, the attribution is strangely lacking detail. There is mention of anti-drone systems, but there would be more than just lasers - there would be radar. Are the lasers detection devices or attack devices? Are they radar guided or human directed?

              All in all, a very poorly sourced and written story.

            2. Julian Garrett

              Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

              "We're Heeeeere!!!"

              Kaboom!!!

              "So are weeeeeee!!"

              This is how wars start kids. Everyone is getting pretty leery of the other these days. Call the US whatever you like, but I doubt they would be twatish enough to try this.This is for upstart punkrockers with a chip on their shoulder.

              And geez louise - I wonder who that could be.

            3. fajensen Silver badge

              Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

              You don't think that the US will be able to place the source of multiple incidents against military aircraft with high accuracy?

              Technically, yes. For public consumption and political decision making absolutely not. The US will just straight-up lie, fake-up evidence, bribe and pressure "allies" to get whatever war, humanitarian intervention, regime change, assignation, sanctions and so on that the White House Regime wants to have this week. Then next week it is something different. But the melody is always the same.

              <>And that they'd be very careful about making an accusation against the Chinese base?<>

              Really!?! Wonder what it would look like if they were more liberal with the accusations than now. They would have to feed Nikki Haley speed intravenously to keep up the good work.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

          "2000mW and up"

          2000mW? Is that bigger and more scary than 2W?

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: bigger and more scary than 2W

            Well Duh!! Od course it is. Look at all those zeroes.

            Personally, I spurn your pathetically meagre 2Q device and trump it with my awesomely fearsome 200,000 µW Death Machine!

            I can keep this up all day - haven't even got to zeptowatt yet!

            1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: "awesomely fearsome 200,000 µW Death Machine!"

              Sooo... 200mW or 0.2W. Wow only a tenth as powerful as the "scary" 2W laser.

              (I'm hung-over so I might have missed implied sarcasm in the dropped zero)

              1. DiViDeD Silver badge

                @Scroticus Canis: "awesomely fearsome 200,000 µW Death Machine!"

                Nonsense! Look at all those zeroes. It's a fearsome death machine, I tell you.

                (yes, there was the odd dropped zero, for reasons that seemed suitably mirth making at the time. But now I find myself explainininining... Oh God, I'm so depressed)

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        The thing about lasers is that it is pretty easy to trace back to their source, so it seems unlikely they'd blame China for something some randos in the city were doing. Now obviously governments sometimes lie in situations like this and blame someone else unfairly, but if that was true they wouldn't need any lasers hitting their pilots at all to lodge such an accusation.

        So I think it is pretty much 100% certain that if there are lasers hitting the pilots, China is to blame.

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

          "The thing about lasers is that it is pretty easy to trace back to their source"

          and

          "at its Djibouti base, or possibly on a ship at the nearby naval station"

          So that's pretty much pinpointed to the nearest centimetre then

          1. c1ue

            Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

            Really easy? How is that?

            You can't see the laser beam in the air unless there is a lot of dust.

            If you're the one being blinded/hit, you also can't see the source.

            So how exactly is it easy to see the attacker, particularly if they are 2 miles away?

            What about if they are 1.9 miles away - the difference in angle is 18 degrees - you can see the difference from a point (laser head on)?

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

              You can't see the laser beam in the air unless there is a lot of dust

              Depends on the conditions and frequency of the laser beam.. They are pretty easy to see at night, especially the cheap ones with poor beam convergence.

      3. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        It strikes me as a typical TLA diversionary story. They say they're afraid of laser pointers, to divert attention away from the real menace, let's call it Canada Geese. They say they're afraid of laser pointers, to drum up business for their clandestine company CIA (which means Crash Infidel Aircraft) which sells devices guaranteed to do just that, but which actually don't--and in addition have a GPS locator to guide the rocket counter strike. Otherwise, it's too Nineteen Eighty Four-ish of an announcement. There may be other elements of diversion, but I'm bored by this story. On to deeper questions.

        If a camel poops in the desert, does it still stink? Yes.

    2. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      Err,

      According to a news report I read a month or so ago, the Canadians have also been suffering from the same mystery illness the US blames on Sonic attacks, and have evacuated families from Cuba; the fleapit is classed as a solo deployment now; essential personal only.

      Another report suggests it might be an interference pattern caused by various spybugs planted in the buildings interfering with each other, that creates a supersonic whistling noise.

      Ré Hellfire.

      A laser guided bomb, sans warhead, but tuned to the frequency being used might put the wind up them, but not kill everyone in the vicinity.

      Just a thought.

      1. Sanguma

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        "Ré Hellfire.

        A laser guided bomb, sans warhead, but tuned to the frequency being used might put the wind up them, but not kill everyone in the vicinity."

        The Pentagon could repurpose their excess F-35s as Hellfire replacements. I'm sure that's the only sane use for them.

        Mind you, they could also repurpose their new up-and-coming F-52s ... the only fighter aircraft to have been designed by an active (or radioactive) Head of State, Donald Chump? Frump? Rump? Trump?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      Hmmmm....smells of disinformation...so...

      "Welcome to The Register, Mr BoltonPutin!"

    4. BillG Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      @thames write: This smacks of the American story about the Cuban sonic death ray supposedly being directed at their embassy personnel in Havana. That would be the Cuban sonic death ray that no other country finds credible.

      It's somewhat credible. Ever been in a car with all the windows open, with the wind and speed just right so you feel the sub-20Hz vibration pummeling your body? You can't hear it, but it can make you very uncomfortable and even nauseous.

      There is also off-the-shelf riot equipment intended to hit a crowd with sound waves, increasing their anxiety. Freaky things happen at very low frequencies.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        Freaky things happen at very low frequencies

        As was proved in a survey of various 'spooky' (in the paranormal, not political sense) sites. Testing showed that quite a few of them have higher levels of infrasound (under 20hz). And lab tests have showed that those frequencies can engender panic, alarm and anxiety.

    5. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      The Americans none the less persist in blaming Cuba.

      If your only tool is an oversized military, every problem requires a casus belli.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

        every problem requires a casus belli

        Especially with a Bellus Maximus in power..

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      maybe we could just equip military aircraft with a kilowatt laser that "fires back" at the laser? "Send it back" with 'interest'!

      That's right, "mine's bigger". Wanna see? Heh!

    7. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re thames: Laser canon and sonic death rays.

      The Canadian embassy & it's employees in Cuba also suffered from the same "problems".

      "Canada sends home families of diplomats posted in Cuba. The move comes as 10 Canadians continue to show unexplained brain symptoms, government officials said."

  3. martinusher Silver badge

    You'd havve thought.....

    The Pentagon needs to realize that not everyone in the world views its activities as spreading "Peace and Freedom (TM)". Shining a laser pointer at an aircraft is an easy act of defiance, one that's not easy to provide an appropriate response to (a Hellfire would probably be overdoing it a bit). So unless you can get the cooperation of the local people and their government this sort of thing is going to be a fact of life.

    ....so you would have thought that the Pentagon could spend some of its $700 billion a year budget on providing appropriate eye protection for its aircrew.

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Re: You'd havve thought.....

      This is America we're talking about though, the country where the president blatantly lies on television, then denies he said what he was broadcast saying, where you are allowed to own as many guns as you like and where the answer to gun violence is to have more guns.

      So, I fully expect Djibouti to be a glowing puddle of molten radioactive slag any time about now...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You'd havve thought.....

        >This is America we're talking about though

        OK, got a plausible explanation for why the Pentagon would be lying about this?

        1. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge
          FAIL

          Re: You'd havve thought.....

          Same reasons they lied about WMDs in Iraq, Gulf of Tonkin, Viagra fuelled gang rape in Libya, babies thrown out of incubators. The list goes on and clearly shows a pattern of pathological lying.

          The US government has been caught lying so many times, that even if they were telling the truth, anything they say will be taken with a grain of salt by anyone aside from the most rabid flunkies.

          Most second-hand car dealers are perceived by most people to be more reputable than the US government.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You'd havve thought.....

            >[...]pattern of pathological lying

            That is just arguing that they lie because they have lied. It does not really give a good reason unless you mean the US is about to invade a Chinese base. The examples you provided took place prior to invasions. Is that what you imply here? I would have thought there are better ways to start WWIII.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You'd havve thought.....

          What they do. Like rats eating garbage - They simply don't know how to do anything else.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You'd havve thought.....

          ">This is America we're talking about though

          OK, got a plausible explanation for why the Pentagon would be lying about this?"

          Never said they were lying, I just insinuated that Americans have a habit of massively over-reacting, inflaming the situation and causing it to spiral out of control.

    2. AZump

      Re: You'd havve thought.....

      IFR

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You'd havve thought.....

        Pull down the blinds on the windshield. Military planes should be able to land on instruments?

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    So what proof do they have

    Pics or it did not happen.

    Otherwise it is USA doing the usual routine regarding "enemy" bases - any accusation and any provocation is good. Gas, lasers, smelly farts. Whatever suits the agenda.

  5. I3N
    Mushroom

    Friggin' Yahoos

    Probably some of those South Sudan 'heros'

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Binding Protocol?

    "Both the US and China are signatories to the UN's Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons"

    So if a guy in an assault helicopter is firing missiles and lumps of lead at you, and all you have is a crappy laser pointer from eBay, is it going to make you a war criminal if you try to shine it in his eyes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Binding Protocol?

      That's it in a nutshell.

      You're not allowed to shine lasers into the eyes of the pilots who are flying multi million dollar war machines capable of raining death and destruction onto people tens if not hundreds of miles away in case someone gets hurt.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        It was frickin' C-130, not a Death Star! (And not an AC-130 or MC-130, either).

        So how, precisely, is it capable of "raining death and destruction"?

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          Malcom REALLY need to read the OP in this sub-thread before posting again.

          Ré that post; at least the gunship will be using bullets with a low lead content - to avoid unnecessarily harming people or the environment.

          1. Sanguma

            Re: B[l]inding Protocol?

            "Ré that post; at least the gunship will be using bullets with a low lead content - to avoid unnecessarily harming people or the environment."

            And because too much lead spoils the balance of those Depleted Uranium shells. And you can't have people thinking that the US actually likes dum-dum rounds ...

          2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

            Re: Binding Protocol?

            Ian REALLY need to explain the relevance of a completely different scenario to the one under discussion.

            [ And yeah, if all you've got is a laser/vial of Novichok/exo-atmospheric nuke and you use it in violation of a treaty that you signed saying you wouldn't use it, YOU ARE A WAR CRIMINAL. This is not hard. ]

            Sorry this is so confusing.

            Meanwhile, back to people shining lasers at transport aircraft, which, IAN, is the topic.

        2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          @Malcolm Weir

          Pretty sure a C-130 can carry enough to 'rain' almost anything.

          Even a C-130 full of rainbow ponies wouldn't leave much alive underneath.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          > It was frickin' C-130 ... So how, precisely, is it capable of "raining death and destruction"?

          IIRC the 130s (incuding the plain C' version) are capable of dropping the MOAB, and previously the BLU-82 (either of which could ruin anyone's day...)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Binding Protocol?

            "IIRC the 130s (incuding the plain C' version) are capable of dropping the MOAB, and previously the BLU-82 (either of which could ruin anyone's day...)"

            Not that I'd suggest anyone would start a war to increase arms sales but I'm pretty sure the manufacturers of said explosive devices will sleep soundly and won't be complaining about the extra revenues.

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