A Chinese research company claims to have developed a laser rifle capable of burning clothes and carbonising skin at 800m.
Dubbed the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle, the device weighs three kilos (about the same as an AK-47) making it as portable as a normal assault rifle.
Powered by a lithium battery, the rifle is capable of generating 1000 shots, each lasting for 2 seconds before requiring recharging.
The company in question, ZKZM Laser, is part of the Xi’an Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A researcher who worked on the project told the South China Morning Post, “The pain will be beyond endurance.” But also went on to say the weapon will be classed as “non-lethal,” because it isn’t designed to kill on impact.
Experts in the field have been extremely sceptical of company’s claims however. Believing the scientists involved are greatly exaggerated the weapon’s capabilities.
Many sceptics are of the opinion the technology to burn through clothes in a split second from such a distance is still science fiction.
In his coverage for Techcrunch, Devin Coldewey explained that due to attenuation as a laser travels through air, it will almost certainly be too weak to cause any sort of perceptible damage at 800 meters.
“Such a laser may prove incapable of even popping a balloon,” he says in his report.
He ends by saying, “hopefully they give a real-world demonstration of the device soon and put me to shame.”
In response, ZKZM Laser, released footage of the rifle being tested on a rooftop in Xian, Shaanxi province.
A location the company said was chosen for safety reasons. To avoid anyone walking into the beam.
In the footage, the weapon is used to ignite cardboard propped against a wall.
It’s unclear exactly how far away the weapon is from the target, although it does look much closer than 800m.
Another problem with the demonstration, is due to the laser rifle being silent and invisible to the naked eye, there isn’t actually any proof it’s the thing causing the burns.
Further in, a car tyre and T-shirt are seen to be burning from a single point, but again, with no real indication the weapon is the cause.
The team behind the laser rifle claimed the tests were carried out at maximum range.
After the demonstration footage was released, a company spokesperson said, “Our device is the world’s most advanced laser gun, there is no need to measure the distance, no need to adjust the focus – just aim and shoot.”
“And after an upgrade it will be the world’s most advanced laser cannon. It will be able to take down a drone several kilometres away,” he added.
The company now believe the ZKZM-500 ready for mass production.
However, currently ZKZM laser don’t possess a licence to manufacture or sell weapons, so are seeking a business partner who does.
Given the dangerous potential, it’s believed the only customers for the weapon at first will be China’s military and police forces.
Claims are already being made by the company for how it could be used.
They have explained how it could help in a hostage situation by firing through windows to disable kidnappers.
Or in covert military operations to burn through a gas tank and ignite fuel storage facilities.
“Because the laser has been tuned to an invisible frequency, and it produces absolutely no sound, nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident,” said one of the projects scientists.
A technical document regarding the laser rifle was released on the Public Service Platform for National Civil-Military Integration.
A website run by the Chinese government to encourage collaboration between the military and commercial sectors.
No doubt to help in finding a production partner.
The document attempts to focuses on non-lethal uses, but does so in a fairly disturbing manner.
One suggested use is that law enforcement could counter illegal protests by setting fire to banners.
Or, (and here’s were it all gets a bit dark), “protest leaders could be targeted by setting fire to their clothing or hair which would mean they lose the rhythms of their speech and powers of persuasion.”
Yep, having your hair and clothes burst into flames does tend to mess with your “rhythm of speech”.
One unnamed Beijing police officer told the Chinese media, he would prefer to stick to more traditional crowd-control methods such as tear gas, rubber bullets or tasers.
“The laser burn will leave a permanent scar, it would be a horrid sight,” he is quoted as saying.
Worryingly, there are no specific international protocols which regulate the development or use of hand held laser weapons.
The United Nations Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons was signed by over 100 nations in 1980, but concentrates on early generation weapons that could cause permanent loss of eyesight.
When it finds a suitable manufacturing partner, ZKZM plans to sell the rifles at $15000 a unit.
Feature Image Credit: ZKZM Laser.