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 …

  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

      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

        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. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            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
              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 Silver 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
      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 Silver 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
      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 Silver 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.

    2. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Re: Binding Protocol?

      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?

      If you are a non-combatant, which is probably the case since you don't at least have a rifle or a sidearm, then the guy in the assault helicopter is also a war criminal for targeting you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        If you are a non-combatant, which is probably the case since you don't at least have a rifle or a sidearm, then the guy in the assault helicopter is also a war criminal for targeting you.

        But if he believes your wedding party is a Bin Laden family firm AGM, then it is OK. Or, if he wasn't targeting you, but you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's fine too.

        1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          Hellfire missiles seem to be appropriate for any occasion; weddings, funerals, why not 'terrorists' with laser pointers.

      2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        But, as you know, the moment you die you are branded a terrorist/militant.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        But then there's that little big about "collateral damage" which is their "get out" clause..

        So your neighbour shines the laser, you end up dead in the resultant explosion and your death is marked as "collateral damage"...

        1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          So your neighbour shines the laser, you end up dead in the resultant explosion and your death is marked as "collateral damage"...

          Yes, but it's fine, because it's 'nothing personal' and it's not them, just some brown person in a third world 'shithole' as Trump said out loud, but what a lot of USians seem to think even if they don't say it.

          The good thing about Trump is that the veneer of civility has completely cracked and everyone can now see the barbarians for what they are.

      4. veti Silver badge

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        If you are a non-combatant, which is probably the case since you don't at least have a rifle or a sidearm, then the guy in the assault helicopter is also a war criminal for targeting you.

        But he'll be court martialled and tried by his own military.

        You - will be treated exactly the same, which is to say, if you survive long enough, you'll also be tried before a tribunal convened by his military.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Binding Protocol?

          "But he'll be court martialled and tried by his own military." LOL

          There are no war criminals in the US services - only other countries.

          That's why the US does not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

          1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

            Re: Binding Protocol?

            That's why the US does not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

            Not only that, the US will invade The Netherlands if there's ever a USian brought to trial there.

            https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2009/0213/p05s01-woeu.html

            Of course people don't like USians, because of their 'freedom', not because they threaten anyone at any time for any perceived sleight.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Binding Protocol?

              * slight

      5. Remy Redert

        Re: Binding Protocol?

        If you are a non-combatant, you're not bound by the laws of war. If you are being targeted and are defending yourself, you can cover pretty much anything you do to the people attacking you as legitimate self defense.

        Of course if those people are American, you're now a terrorist.

      6. Scroticus Canis
        Holmes

        Re: Binding Protocol? - "is also a war criminal for targeting you"

        That's nearly as comforting as being hit by friendly fire.

    3. IT Hack

      Re: Binding Protocol?

      Please! No fighting in the war room!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

    So they don't really know, here's an idea, why not land and take off the other way round on the runway.

    It's crap like this from the American Government that makes fake news possible. I mean it's got to be the Chinese right? It's not like there is anyone else in that area of the world that doesn't like them.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      The full quotation is:

      "Military researchers at Jane's Defence Weekly reported last month that Beijing installed a high-powered laser system at its Djibouti base, or possibly on a ship at the nearby naval station."

      So it's some journalists that said that, not the US Government. Selectively quoting an article deceptively in order to 'prove' that someone else is lying is a form of, well, lying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's not the journalist, it's an American government statement as fact that it's China without any actual proof. That's the problem these days.

    2. JassMan Silver badge
      Trollface

      @AC

      "So they don't really know, here's an idea, why not land and take off the other way round on the runway."

      The simple reason for not taking off & landing the other way round is that if the wind is blowing from behind you, you will run out of runway. Planes rely on having sufficient "airspeed" to be airborne, not "groundspeed"

      Unless you meant flying backwards, in which case you should know that rear vision mirrors on planes only show what it above your tail, and planes are very un-aerodynamic when flying in reverse.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: @AC

        > planes are very un-aerodynamic when flying in reverse.

        Not being very aerodynamic is an effective way to get back on the ground though

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: @AC

          Not being very aerodynamic is an effective way to get back on the ground though

          Depends on whether you plan on using that plane and/or personnel again..

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Wot U said

        "rear vision mirrors on planes only show what it above your tail, and planes are very un-aerodynamic when flying in reverse."

        Sounds like an inherent design flaw to me. Has anyone thought of asking Jony Ive to take a look at it?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Wot U said

          "Sounds like an inherent design flaw to me. Has anyone thought of asking Jony Ive to take a look at it?"

          It'll end up white, pebble-shaped, and extremely expensive.

          1. Anomalous Cowturd
            Gimp

            Re: Wot U said

            "It'll end up white, pebble-shaped, and extremely expensive."

            And it won't actually fly.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's not like there is anyone else in that area of the world that doesn't like them."

      World population about 7 billion.

      US population about 300 million.

      Top 1% of the rest of the world align themselves to US because, money and power.

      That leaves on my calculation about 6.6 billion people who might not like Americans in military aircraft.

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

    Base the ATL equipped Hercules at this place, and get it to return fire at the origin of any laser directed at it when it is flying.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/14/atl_fender_driller/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

      I foresee a wonderful new line of attack by insurgents, lasers thrown into military compounds to attract 'friendly' fire

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

        Problem with the "thrown into military compounds" part is you have to point a laser at the aircraft with pretty high accuracy.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

          “you have to point a laser at the aircraft with pretty high accuracy.”

          Not really - you only need to sweep across the cockpit windows... the imperfections will light up rather brightly... dazzle is as good as permanent damage when close to landing.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Re: "Not really - you only need to sweep across the cockpit windows"

            Cockpit windows that may be several hundred meters, if not a thousand or more, away.

            And you want to sweep an itty bitty laser point. At a moving target.

            Yeah, I'm thinking you have to be pretty accurate indeed.

            1. Red Bren

              Re: "Not really - you only need to sweep across the cockpit windows"

              @Pascal Monett

              I thought the same thing until another commenter pointed out that the beam from a hand held laser pointer, isn't that well collimated and will spread out over distances of hundreds of meters, so not that hard to hit the target. In addition, minor imperfections in the cockpit glass cause the beam to repeatedly reflect and refract, so it's not just a little green dot any more.

              Can't find the original comment, sadly.

              1. shedied

                Re: "Not really - you only need to sweep across the cockpit windows"

                Was the original comment something along the lines of

                Do not attempt to land the aircraft with remaining eye nor press any more buttons labeled FIRE

            2. Chozo

              Re: Not really - I'm thinking you have to be pretty accurate

              Except that cheap laser pointers suffer from Beam Divergence caused by a combination poor diode construction & optics. With a typical Chinisium device having a 3 mrad rating getting 3 feet wider for every 1000 feet and still being bright enough to distract pilots. Then there's the fun world of Disco gear and Rescue lasers with spinning mirror assemblies that sweep the beam rapidly over a large area.

              1. I3N
                Pint

                Re: Not really - I'm thinking you have to be pretty accurate

                up voted for 'Chinisium', touché

          2. Screwed

            Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

            Hmm, how about attaching a laser to a Weeble? Throw it into the area and watch it sweep the sky above - especially if there is a reasonable breeze.

            Cheap enough to have dozens or hundreds all going at once.

            "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down"

            1. Ian Emery Silver badge

              Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

              "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down"

              Fake News.

              They DO fall down if you push them hard enough.

              (Nursery Nurse for 25 years)

              1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Advanced Tactical Laser - ATL

                They DO fall down if you push them hard enough

                As does the cat of ours with the nickname of Weeble.. but she also possesses claws and will happily use them on anyone trying to push her over/away from her food bowl[1]..

                [1] Hence the name Weeble. Her other nickname is "grand pyramid".. Or, as the vet put it: "somewhere inside that cat is a thin cat trying to get out". My response "not trying very hard".. Dieting one cat in a multi-cat household (with a couple of very timid rescue cats) isn't a viable option.

  9. steelpillow Silver badge

    Regulate laser pointers

    Handheld laser pointers need to be regulated as an offensive weapon. Write an international safety standard for them - lose focus slowly over distance, limit beam strength. Require a license to use more powerful kit unless it is securely locked into position in an unwieldly installation, etc.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Regulate laser pointers

      Handheld laser pointers need to be regulated as an offensive weapon.

      And the proliferation of these in the marketplace is due to...

      PowerPoint presentations!

      Ironic given that Bezos himself bans PowerPoint (in Executive meetings), but Amazon must be one of the largest purveyors of laser pointers bought for use with, PowerPoint presentations

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not biting the hand that feeds it?

    If it is about normal corporations El Reg makes fine journalistic criticisms but concerning topics that smell of geopolitical propaganda it's just uncritically copying the narrative of the military/spooks/government.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

      You think the Americans are making this up?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

        Not the other AC but you have a point, it's not like the Americans have ever lied. Though lets dissect.

        1. They don't know precisely where it's from and even if they did do we really think the Chinese are going to do it from their base or ships?

        2. It's close to the middle east. lots of people hate them in them parts so chances are it's not the Chinese.

        3. Surely the military have some kind of screen for blocking laser pointers, if not, why not?

        4. The timing to coincide with the laser installation. Again, do we really believe the Chinese are going to be so blatant? Do they want war? That's what they'll get if they bring down a plane with the orange one in power.

        Therefore I call bullshit on this claim in respect of the Chinese. It was clearly Canada.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

          "2. It's close to the middle east."

          It's 1500 miles from Djibouti to Baghdad. No quite popping out to the shops.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

            "It's 1500 miles from Djibouti to Baghdad."

            But only a 20-mile boat trip across the water to Yemen. The Middle East is a big place.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

              The Middle East is a big place

              Can't be! After all, it's outside the US and therefore automatically small and un-noticable. Unless it supplies oil of course - and can be invaded.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

          "It was clearly Canada."

          You mean they aren't Americans? Does that mean Mexicans aren't either?

        3. Maty

          Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

          'Do they want war? That's what they'll get if they bring down a plane with the orange one in power.'

          While I'm no fan of the 'Orange one' let's take a look at significant American military activity this century starting with Afghanistan 2001 (Bush jnr), Iraq 2003 (ditto), Somalia 2007 (Bush again), Lybia 2011 (Obama) Iraq - the surge 2014 (Obama) Isis in mid-east 2014 (Obama).

          Going back further we find several wars under Clinton and Bush snr. So far all Trump has managed is a credible prospect of peace talks with North Korea. I'm not saying we won't get a Trump war yet, but compared to his predecessors, to date he's been pretty peaceful.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

            >I'm not saying we won't get a Trump war yet

            What? Trying to provide reasoned facts backed up with sources? That won't fly here and I have seen you have already received one down vote. More will probably follow.

            Discussions here are all about emotions, not facts.

        4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

          It was clearly Canada

          Can't be - if it was Canada the laser would finish off by writing "sorry!" on the windscreen..

      2. Crucial Decimal

        Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

        You think the Americans are making this up?

        ................

        Quite possibly...

        They do have form for bending reality to suit their interests / fit their narrative.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Not biting the hand that feeds it?

          https://youtu.be/gV37N8A7fvM

          Maybe the Americans are making this up, too.

  11. Kleykenb

    Welding glasses

    Pilots will have to start wearing glasses similar to Welding glasses during take-off and landing. Don't wait for planes to crash first.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Welding glasses

      If by "welding glasses" you mean basic goggles, they're probably not protective enough to save you if a laser hits your eye directly.

      If you mean like an arc welding visor - then sure, that would solve one problem. You wouldn't be blinded by a laser pointer. However, you also wouldn't be able to see a bloody thing in the cockpit, or much outside it unless the sun happened to be straight in front of you. So, kinda self-defeating.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Welding glasses

        I hear auto-darkening welding helmets are all the rage these last few days decades...

  12. Tridac

    shake in Djibouti ?, no, "Sheik Djibouti"...

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      I think it's a tip of the hat to Frank Zappa -

      frank zappa sheik yerbouti

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheik_Yerbouti

  13. Denarius
    Meh

    auto-darkening lenses

    A commercial pilot of my distant acquaintance told me that idiots with laser pointers are now a routine hazard even in backwater Oz. Given that this is a world wide phenomena, why has not a lighter version of the self darkening welding goggles been created ? Making them common laser pointer frequencies/colours specific may mean one can maintain useful vision while attacker is active.

    That may also make such eye protection of use on roads where an increasing number of incompetents maintain high beam in all conditions or others who install aftermarket retina destruction bulbs. Had a couple of them tonight attempting general blinding.

    OTOH, why no military small "beam riding missiles" to autofire at beamers yet ?

    1. Red Bren
    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: auto-darkening lenses

      Perhaps because the danger is overstated ?

      Pilots may well be frightened by seeing a laser flash but it would have to have an awful lot of power - far more than a laser pointer - to contain eye-damaging brightness after a few hundred meters of divergence and, especially, diffraction through the curved windscreen.

      Temporary bright spot on the retina, maybe. Perhaps even enough to seriously affect the landing, so certainly not safe.

      Actual permanent retina damage, no. A flare, strobe, photo flash or spotlight likely to be just as dangerous. Where do you stop with the banning ?

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: auto-darkening lenses

        I shudder to think what happens when people who had their tac-lazors freshly taken away discover mirrors and the Sun...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: auto-darkening lenses

      >why has not a lighter version of the self darkening welding goggles been created ?

      Photochromic materials cannot tell the difference between strong but incoherent sunlight and medium strength but coherent laser light. I guess this is not the place to go into the physics of it but per Watt a laser light will do more damage to the eyes than sunlight.

      Also darkening the glasses immediately before landing is not a good idea.

  14. vtcodger Silver badge

    Why?

    The Chinese seem pretty disciplined. Why would they go out of their way to piss off us Americans unless they see some benefit? They probably wouldn't. Maybe they have a laser guided anti-aircraft system (do such things exist?) that they might have tested on a live target without thinking through the consequences? Also the base really is purportedly physically quite small. 300 people on a half square km facility https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_naval_base_in_Djibouti It's probably located somewhere around 11.5950N 43.0683E about 10 km NW of the Pizza Hut at Camp Lemonnier. FWIW Google maps doesn't seem to fuzz the image of the Chinese, US (or Japanese) bases at Djibouti, but it only labels the American base. Amateur photointerpreters would seem to be welcome to take a shot at analyzing the facilities.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I say escalate it to

    Tactical nukes.

    Because nuke and pave would be an effective deterrent for idiots.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I say escalate it to

      ...and cut off the hands of thieves while you;re at it?

    2. Sanguma

      Re: I say escalate it to

      Yeah. I can relate to that. Why only the other day, some idiot pulled out in front of me, and some other idiot ran the red light and almost trashed me - now, if I had a decent tactical nuke, I could've showed 'em you don't mess with me, no sirree!!!

      One fifteen kiloton nuke, and they would've been toast!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: I say escalate it to

        One fifteen kiloton nuke

        Presumably in hand grenade form? They were quite popular once..

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I say escalate it to

      Because nuke and pave would be an effective deterrent for idiots.

      So that'll be Washington DC a puddle of molten glass then?

  16. israel_hands

    Data + Context + Analysis = Intel

    I don't see any advantage for China in the reported sequence of events.

    As it stands, directing an attack from their own military base is only going to provoke a messy diplomatic incident and, bearing mind idiot Trump's current hard-on for going after China, seems to serve no overt of covert purpose.

    If they want to fuck with yank military air traffic they'd do better to distribute a couple of crates of high-powered laser pointers to the local disaffected yoot and get them to do the dirty work for them with no easy attribution.

    If the Chinese really did launch the attack from their base then their only option, when discovered, would be to claim it was an "accident" during "routine calibration" of a new system. And there's still time for them to put forth such an explanation so I wouldn't automatically rule it out.

    It also strikes me that attribution must be very difficult involving a laser-source fired over several kilometres. It won't be visible over much of its travel and the affected pilots will certainly be in no position to identify the source, especially at that distance during a night-landing procedure when they'll primarily be relying on instruments instead of direct visual observation (not that that will save them from being blinded by the dispersed beam of a powerful pointer flooding through the cockpit windows).

    I just don't see any benefit for the Chinese to do this directly when they could achieve the same, if not better, results by letting someone else work the tools for them. And the attribution is definitely suspect. As others have pointed out, this smacks heavily of the Cuban "sonic attacks" that are much better explained by poor sanitation but that doesn't have the same Man From Uncle panache that grabs the attention of a fearful-by-design American public.

  17. Jeff Green

    Why are military aircraft suffering this? The number of available laser frequencies is small and goggles with narrow cut filters for all of them should not be too hard to arrange.

    The human eye is a very small target and aircraft move fast, lasers cannot be held on such a target for very long.

    Yes of course these things are very dangerous but in no way unopposable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The number of available laser frequencies is small and goggles with narrow cut filters for all of them should not be too hard to arrange."

      Ah, well that is where you are unfortunately completely wrong.

      Narrow cut filters for one frequency still have quite a high density at other frequencies. If you have to have a series of filters for, say, 4 frequencies, you're getting into welding helmet territory.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The human eye is a very small target and aircraft move fast, lasers cannot be held on such a target for very long."

      Eyes take quite some time to adjust properly to night vision mode, while a bright flash can switch it off in the blink of an eye. It doesn't need the power and/or duration to cause permanent damage.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        It doesn't need the power and/or duration to cause permanent damage

        Which is why the lasers that they use to spot-weld the retina back in place are actually pretty low power..

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Military grade snowflakes

    All the U.S. military does these days is bleat and whine. They have frickin lasers. They fly too close to our fighter jets. They intimidate our warships. It was too close for comfort. We have filed a complaint.

    They need to stop being pussies, man up and grow some.

  19. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Retroreflectors

    Along the sides of the cockpit windows. Maybe on some external surfaces if you can get them to stick on at cruising airspeeds.

    Throw some of their laser back at them.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it possible the lasers are attached to the heads of sharks?

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge
      Pint

      See icon

      that is all

  21. viscount

    Most likely random personnel on the Chinese base have some laser pointers and feel like annoying some Americans.

  22. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    The only way to stop a bad guy with a laserpointer is a good guy with a laserpointer, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Laser pointers don't blind people. People blind people.

  23. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Filtering eyewear available

    CBC News: "Dartmouth [part of Halifax municipality, Nova Scotia, Canada] firm begins production of anti-laser eyewear for pilots. Metamaterial Technologies Inc. says eyeglasses that refract laser light will be available in a few months. ...protective eyewear that it says can protect pilots and military personnel from the growing threat of laser strikes."

    Reportedly based on nano-structures that precisely block two of the most common laser wavelengths. Films to be applied to aircraft windows, but also snazzy eyewear.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/anti-laser-pilot-glasses-3m-in-government-funding-airbus-planes-windscreens-1.4650121

    I assume that they'll be busy...

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Filtering eyewear available

      Next week: Nova Scotia gets annexed by the pentagon

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Filtering eyewear available

        Nova Scotia gets annexed by the pentagon

        Nah - not enough oil for them to bother with.

  24. John H Woods

    Pirate solution

    As the issue seems to be temporary dazzle, rather than permanent loss of vision, perhaps an eyepatch might be in order?

    Talking of dazzle - I take it the subhead is a 'Sunshine' reference?

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Pirate solution - Blinky Winky Solution

      Can't they just train their military pilots to alternately use just the one eye? then they can switch to the good eye when blinded.

      Yes, I can see the idea might need a *little* more work.

  25. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Fishy complaint

    If these are 2W consumer grade laser pointers, the high beam divergence makes it easy to hit eyes at a distance but that same divergence cuts the power rapidly with distance. Low divergence lasers (I have one) are hard as hell to aim at things not moving, so forget about flying objects. Even a naked laser diode in the eyepiece of a stabilized telescope would be difficult to aim due to stabilization lag and drift. Something that actually targets and is actually dangerous sounds like it would be easy hardware to spot on the ground.

  26. Dave 15

    I seem to remember

    Many years ago hearing there were ways of protecting pilots eyes against the flash from a nuclear explosion, if that were true surely similar protection from lasers should also be possible... basically fast reacting sunglasses.

  27. martinusher Silver badge

    The problem with spreading "Peace and Freedom" (TM)

    We have all these 'facilities' in far flung corners of the world, places where many of the locals would nt necessarily welcome us and where the local forces of law 'n order may not be as cooperative as (say) the ones in England would be. The result would be little acts of civil disobedience. We should be thankful that we're just dealing with lasers rather than IEDs.

    The solution is straightforward. The Pentagon burns through a mere $700,000,000,000 of our cash annually. It should be possible to find a bit of loose change to buy some laser filtering eyewear. Probably from the Chinese.

  28. herman Silver badge

    Laser sunglasses

    So, Uncle Sam is too cheap to issue its pilots with laser safety glasses?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laser source

    A lot of people here write as if laser pointers have been used. In that case the source would be easily found. Most likely (based on earlier similar stories regarding eye damage) the laser source was an infrared laser used in distance measurements, typically used for calculating the super-elevation of a gun, such as an anti aircraft gun or a tanks cannon.

    A laser pointer emitting visible light will trigger the eye blink reflex. The eye is pretty good at self protection. If the eye is illuminated by IR lasers the blink reflex will not be triggered, increasing the potential for eye damage enormously. You simply won't see the IR light and certainly not the source of it.

    Western distance measuring lasers are eye safe, that is using a wavelength that is likely to cause less damage. Look it up if you don't believe me. It is a long read. Whatever the Chinese may use might possibly not conform to this standard or they have used fast repetition. Also target tracking has been trivial in defence application for decades.

    Protective means exist and are routinely used in defence. Those are wavelength specific so just tweaking the laser to a new wavelength and the laser light will get through. Cameras can be disabled, indeed if you follow AWST you will see the US has long complained the Chinese use high powered lasers against US intelligence satellites.

    All in all the laser conflicts have been on going for a long time.

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