The pirate menace in the seas may soon come to a halt if the British engineers at BAE systems have anything to say about it. Having developed a new kind of defense system which uses lasers to immobilize pirates by dazzling them on approach, this is the first non- lethal form of attack against the pirates. The laser has proven its efficacy against moving targets more than a mile away.
Developed in response to growing pirate threats and hijackings, this device literally hides the vessel carrying it behind the blinding green glare that is the laser. These in turn lead pirates off- course with weapons losing aim. The three foot wide beam of light temporarily dazzles anyone who lays eyes on it. Having been tested at trials conducted at the Pershore Laser Trials Range in Worcester, U.K, the laser works both in day light as well as in the night. Its design also allows it to be mounted on smaller yachts to protect them against the pirates.
The laser is being developed to be used in conjunction with high frequency surface radar that is to pin point the location of the faster, smaller type of vessels used by pirates like the Somalian pirates. This enables the system to automate the laser directly on the target and also fire beams rapidly at multiple targets, producing a profound flickering which exemplifies the “dazzle- effect” further.
The modus operandi of the pirates usually includes the element of surprise which help in over- powering a ship. The early detection of the pirates therefore not only acts as a signal to them, but also incapacitates them as they move closer in. Used within the safety limits, the device is not thought to cause blindness. “We have started to look at the piracy issue over the past 18 months due to the increasing threats to vessels around the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The laser provides a secondary capability over larger distances as it can act like a warning. We are also going to look at how different patterns and flickering can increase that affect.” says Bryan Hore, the head of BAE Systems new anti piracy arm.
The world witnessed 440 piracy incidents and 51 hijackings worldwide in 2010 alone. Presently, some 600 sailors are thought to be held hostage by the Somalian pirates. To them, the development of the laser rings in hope. This development in the field emerged with the alleged closure plans of the British military command post that runs operations against the Somalian pirates. The laser is yet to be approved for use under the UN’s Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons before deployment on ships.