Around Asia: Beijing’s secret weapon against US laser technology? Smog

In Other News - February 25th, 2014
smog-beats-lasers

Near-zero visibility caused by choking smog enshrouding China could interfere with US laser weaponry, a People’s Liberation Army official said.

Navy Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, a military expert at the National Defense University, said the thick, hazardous smog could act as a protective shield.

“Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10 kilometers. When there’s smog, it’s only one kilometer. What’s the point of making this kind of weapon?” Zhang said on CCTV’s Haixia Liangan (Cross-Straits) current affairs program.

Zhang claimed China’s poisonous air is made up of tiny metallic particles—and the higher their PM number (the particles’ diameter in micrometers), the harder it would be for lasers to penetrate.

The US Navy recently announced it was preparing to deploy its first laser weaponry aboard the USS Ponce, a 17,000-ton transport dock that will be stationed in the Middle East.

The laser weapon can fire beams that can burn through drones and smaller boats, The Associated Press reports.

Chinese social media erupted with criticism of Zhang’s remarks as air quality worsened, halting building construction and suspending operations at major industrial plants.

Health officials have encouraged residents to stay indoors as much as possible and to put on protective masks when they have to go out.

The US Embassy air-quality monitor in Beijing reported “hazardous” levels of the most dangerous PM 2.5 particles at 405 micrograms per cubic meter at 1 pm on Sunday, significantly higher than the Ministry of Environment Protection’s reading of 270.

Zhang insisted his statements were taken out of context. “I just stated a laser weapon’s weakness,” Zhang said, “I don’t support smog.”

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: william veerbeek/Flickr