Chinese Lasers Suspected Of Targeting U.S. Military Planes

F/A-18E Super Hornet on aircraft carrier
Anderson W. Branch / U.S. Navy via Getty Images

A U.S. military official has said that military planes have been targetted by lasers while flying in the Pacific, noting that 20 incidents have already been recorded since last September, with the latest one being within the last two weeks, reports CNN. These lasers have the capability to blind pilots, making the situations dangerous. The military official, who didn’t want to go on the record with CNN, also shared that the Chinese are suspected to be the sources of those laser flashes. Meanwhile, command spokeswoman Marine Maj. Cassandra told Aviation Week that the incidents have originated “from a range of different sources both ashore and from fishing vessels.” No injuries were reported resulting from these incidents.

While these incidents have been happening around the East China Sea, where there is a heavily trafficked area for shipping as well as where there are disputed island chains that both China and Japan laying claim to them, there were similar attacks that occurred earlier this year. Those attacks happened in the East African country of Djibouti. The U.S. military said in those instances there were injuries and the lasers were traced to a nearby Chinese military base, reports CNN. The website also reported that at a press briefing Friday, Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said, “According to what we have learned from the relevant authorities, the accusations in the relevant reports by U.S. media are totally groundless and purely fabricated.”

“The Wall Street Journal reported that military officials don’t necessarily believe the attacks were initiated by official Chinese military sources, but would not rule out that those responsible were acting on behalf of the Chinese government,” reports CNN. They were not able to confirm with the official that they spoke with what kind of grade (military, commercial, etc.) the lasers from these recent incidents in the Pacific were. Of course, regular, easy-to-buy laser pointers have been proven to cause problems with commercial planes in the U.S. that now aiming one at an airplane can get the person responsible charged with a federal crime.

CNN noted that there was a 2015 report from Chinamil that showed the Chinese were working on improving their ability to blind pilots with laser technology. All of this, they said, despite the fact that “both China and the U.S. are signatories to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, which prohibits the use of blinding laser weapons as a means or method of warfare,” as stated on treatise.un.org.