Laser Anti-Pirate Weapon

A few readers may know that the  NSL editor-in-chief and skipper of S/V Temerity is  in real life a laser physicist and has worked his whole career in laser technology and R&D.   That is why we take particular delight in reporting the development of a laser-based anti- pirate weapon.

Bristol, UK: BAE Systems has successfully demonstrated a prototype device that will serve as an effective non-lethal deterrent against pirate attacks on commercial vessels such as oil tankers and container ships.


The laser beam is capable of providing a visual warning to pirates at distances greater than 2km, and of disorientating attackers sufficiently at lesser distances so that weapons cannot be targeted effectively. At all times the power levels of the laser remain eye safe.

Roy Evans, BAE Systems capability technology lead for laser photonic systems, said: “The effect is similar to when a fighter pilot attacks from the direction of the sun. The glare from the laser is intense enough to make it impossible to aim weapons like AK47s or RPGs, but doesn’t have a permanent effect.”


The researchers have developed a bespoke Neodymium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet (Nd:YAG) laser which is an effective deterrent at relatively low power levels.

[Source: BAE Systems]

The laser described is almost certainly not red and white as depicted, nor the infra-red color of 1064nm from a simple Nd:YAG laser as described, but would be a green beam at 532nm from a frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser, the same color as that from green laser pointers.  The intensities would have to be high enough to be painful or distracting, but not induce permanent blindness,  as the US government subsribes to the prohibition on blinding laser weapons.

For further reading

gCaptain’s original post, includes full text of BAE press release

gCaptain: Anti-piracy Weapons for Somalia

gCaptain: 10 More Anti-piracy Weapons for Somalia

wiki: Dazzler (weapon)

I personally find the emphasis on “non-lethal” weapons (many of which are very expensive and complicated, or depend on some sort of semi-autonomous robot,  wrong.   Non-lethal weapons are not much of a deterrent.   And few of those suggested are as effective as a .50 caliber machine gun.  Unfortunately many of our political ‘leaders’ seem to care more about pirates’ human rights and welfare than about the safety of law-abiding mariners.    Sink ’em on sight, says I.

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