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Royal Navy Deployed Laser Weapons During the Falklands War

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the zap-zap-you're-dead dept.

Shark 139

Zothecula writes "Despite recent demonstrations by the US Navy, we still think of laser weapons as being things of the future. However, previously-classified British documents prove that not only were the major powers working on laser weapons in the 1970s and 80s, but that they were already being deployed with combat units in war zones. A letter from the Ministry of Defence released under the 30-year rule reveals that laser weapons were deployed on Royal Navy ships during the Falklands War in 1982, and that the British government was concerned about similar weapons being developed behind the Iron Curtain."

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139 comments

Yes, but... (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about 8 months ago | (#44549165)

They were only strong enough to "dazzle" pilots, not do any actual damage.

Re:Yes, but... (-1, Flamebait)

waterwingz (68802) | about 8 months ago | (#44549173)

so about as effective as the Harrier jump jets were in defending the fleet ?

Re:Yes, but... (3, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 8 months ago | (#44549221)

Effective enough to keep the Falklands in the hands of the British, much to the consternation of the Argentinians. But hey, it does give them a perfect scapegoat to distract their population from any domestic issues.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

waterwingz (68802) | about 8 months ago | (#44549249)

Supposedly the RAF tactics were to let the Argentine fighter bombers complete their attack runs while the ships were defended with chaff and decoys. Then have the slower Harriers would jump them on their return flights while they were short of fuel. The lasers might have played a big role during the attack phase?

Re:Yes, but... (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#44549263)

Supposedly the RAF tactics were to let the Argentine fighter bombers complete their attack runs while the ships were defended with chaff and decoys.

And who, exactly, claims that?

I'm not aware of any Harrier pilot who's ever said they deliberately let the Argentinians attack ships before they engaged. Nor was speed a big issue when they were primarily using Sidewinder missiles, and the Argentinians didn't have enough fuel to fly supersonic for long and still attack.

Re:Yes, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549521)

Why would *YOU* be aware of it?

Yet another armchair general who has never been closer to decision making that a low enlisted rank....

Oh, I'm sorry - of course you were a Harrier pilot, who now trolls Slashdot.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Insightful)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 8 months ago | (#44549835)

Why is that guy the armchair general troll but the guy he responded to is not an armchair general troll? The first guy, as far as I know, made up this story. The second guy asked for a source and provided a little data to counter it.

Now, if there's something to back it up -- some source for the "supposedly" -- then maybe. Currently the second guy seems more credible to me, though not nearly credible enough that I'd believe him without doing my own research if I really cared.

Re:Yes, but... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549685)

You show how little you know about the situation by using the term 'RAF'. All of the air fighting was done by Fleet Air Arm squadrons - The RAF squadrons were for ground attack only.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 8 months ago | (#44549749)

There were 10 RAF Harriers on the Hermes and I bet they got in some air combat.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 months ago | (#44549875)

I will bet they didn't, due to lack of air to air radar - the RAF operated the GR-type Harrier, suitable for ground attack and recon only, while the air defence force was made up of Royal Navy FRS Harriers, which were equipped with radar as part of their fleet defence ability.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 8 months ago | (#44550181)

from this [wikipedia.org] ;

If most of the Sea Harriers had been lost, the GR.3s would have replaced them in air patrol duties, even though the Harrier GR.3 was not designed for air defence operations; as such the GR.3s quickly had their outboard weapons pylons modified to take air-to-air Sidewinder missiles.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 months ago | (#44550431)

That's a world of difference to "i bet they got in some air combat".

Re:Yes, but... (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 8 months ago | (#44550527)

According to this [naval-history.net] some Sea Harriers were flown by RAF pilots;

Mirage IIIEA of FAA Grupo 8 shot down north of West Falkland by Flt Lt Barton RAF in No.801 Sea Harrier using Sidewinder (4.10 pm). Lt Perona ejected safely.

A-4Q Skyhawk of CANA 3 Esc also shot down near Swan Island in Falkland Sound in same incident by Flt Lt Leeming RAF in No.800 Sea Harrier using 30mm cannon (3.12 pm). Lt Marquez was killed.

Puma SA.330L of CAB 601 flew into ground near Shag Cove House, West Falkland attempting to evade Flt Lt Morgan RAF in No.800 NAS Sea Harrier (10.30 am). All crew escaped.

- Two A-4B Skyhawks of FAA Grupo 5 shot down over Choiseul Sound by Flt Lt Morgan RAF and a third by Lt D Smith in No.800 NAS Sea Harriers using Sidewinders (4.45 pm). Lt Arraras, Lt Bolzan and Ensign Vazquez killed.

Though they were not RAF aircraft they were RAF pilots.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 months ago | (#44550755)

Which has nothing to do with this thread - the point at issue was not the capability of the RAF pilots, who regularly conducted postings to NAS as exchange pilots anyway, but the RAF aircraft were not built for air combat, with the radar being the most obvious deficit.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Informative)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44550961)

No, The Fleet Air Arm tactics (calling navy pilots RAF will result in mild joking/ verbal abuse at best) varied throughout the war, before the landings they were part of a standard layered defence and were usually deployed up threat of the radar pickets which in turn were up threat of the carrier battle group. After the landings the Navy effectively defined a large rectangular box around the landing site and declared this a free fire zone for ships missile/gun systems and a no-go zone for aircraft. again Harriers were employed up threat but the lack of AEW meant that they often had to fly round the "box" to catch incoming raids. Also there was a significant difference in experience and performance in the use of the blue fox radar in the SHAR between 800 (Hermes) and 801 (Invincible) squadrons that meant that the 801 pilots could be more effective in the air defense role (see Sea Harrier Over The Falklands: A Maverick at War by Cmrd Sharkey Ward)

The fact that ships carried LDS is not news, it's mentioned in Woodwards book and various other Falklands war literature and when I went aboard HMS Plymouth in Glasgow in the 1990's they had some details about it on dispay boards. AFAICR it was mounted in the bridge wing and was on the "wrong side" of the ship when she was attacked. Most publications I've seen LDS mentioned state that it was never actually used.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Interesting)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 8 months ago | (#44549259)

the only Argentinian I've discussed this with (I'm British BTW) said he'd never heard of the Falklands or the Malvinas until the miltary government decided to start a war over them. Ditto me in the UK. The populace in neither country knew or cared.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 8 months ago | (#44549451)

That's funny. I'm American, and I'd heard of the Falklands prior to the war. We had been told, in a physics class, about the first battle of the Falklands and how the British had to correct for Southern Hemisphere coriolis effects manually by scratching new lines into their sights (which only had northern hemisphere corrections).

The other funny thing is - that story may not even be true! There are no good historical references to this; plus it's not like the British in WWI were exactly strangers to the seas below the equator... But in any case I already knew where the Falklands were located as the rhetoric heated up.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Insightful)

sortius_nod (1080919) | about 8 months ago | (#44549671)

In fact, the British were very versed in sailing in the southern hemisphere by that stage, they'd spent over 100 years sending boats to where I live, Australia. ;)

Re:Yes, but... (2)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#44549649)

I knew of the Falklands Islands their location from the world map on the wall growing up, so when I read in the Wall Street Journal in (IIRC) 1981 that British Petroleum had hit petroleum drilling on the continental shelf near the Falklands I had a pretty good idea where they were talking about. I remember it being interesting that BP had more experience than anyone at the time working in that type of conditions because of their North Sea development. If BP had a few more years to explore the British government probably wouldn't have spent all that money holding onto the islands, since so far they haven't found any exploitable fields.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 8 months ago | (#44551461)

Consider the personalities involved. I think Thatcher would have done what it took to hold them even if it was clear there was nothing there but sheep.

Re:Yes, but... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549405)

Effective enough to keep the Falklands in the hands of the British, much to the consternation of the Argentinians. But hey, it does give them a perfect scapegoat to distract their population from any domestic issues.

The Argentinians were betrayed by the French. Those exocet missiles were top performers, unfortunately the French gave the codes to the British so the missiles could be jammed. And let's not forget Argentinians subs were wreaking havoc with British warships. So yeah the British won, but they were "helped" by traiterous friends. Should have made a bronze statue of Mitterand and put it in Westminster, but being the ungrateful bastards that they are nothing was done.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

edwartr (1182951) | about 8 months ago | (#44549555)

The Argentine subs 'wreaking havoc'?!!? Argentina had TWO subs total. The 1st sub, the ARA Sante Fe was used to land some commandoes then later was caught on the surface by a helo and was too stupid to dive and so damaged by the helo's rockets and depth charges that it had to be beached on the coast with the crew later being captured. The 2nd sub, ARA San Luis, did patrol and did make three attacks on British ships but never hit ANY targets and were counter-attacked for over 20hours. The sub was in bad shape as its fire-control systems were completely down requiring all attacks to be calculated and launched manually. There were problems with torpedoes, equipment, etc. Argentinian submarines didn't do much and didn't effect the outcome of the war at all. Now the British had three subs in the area with 2, the HMS Spartan and HMS Splendid being mainly used as successful scouts of the location and movement of Argentinian naval vessels. And the 3rd sub, the HMS Conqueror, not only engaged but also sunk the Argentine Cruiser ARA General Belgrano with heavy loss of life. It did this using WWII vintage straight-running torpedoes instead of modern torps. It easily left the scene while the Belgrano sank. After the loss of the Belgrano, all Argentinian Naval ships stayed within 12 miles of the Argentine coast for the rest of the war. The Argentinians on the Belgrano and escorts had no idea the Conqueror was even there until her torpedoes stuck. Where as the British surface ships could detect and defeat the Argentine subs and were not detered by them at all. Argentinian subs - did nothing to really help their side and in fact lost half of their sub fleet while doing no damage to any British vessels but British subs had no losses, sank an enemy cruiser after which the entire Argentine Navy stayed within 12 miles of their own shores never venturing out to even hint at engaging the British. British subs sinks one cruiser and the Argentinians give up the entire naval engagement/war. Heck, just the threat of British subs in the area of the Falklands kept Argentine merchant vessels from the area denying any sea-lift / support from Argentine ground forces. Source: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA279554 [dtic.mil]

Re:Yes, but... (-1, Flamebait)

mrbester (200927) | about 8 months ago | (#44549715)

Yeah, but the Belgrano was running because word leaked out that she was a primary target and when she was engaged she was at full speed towards home. Conqueror had destroy orders even though Belgrano had left the field. Some say she was in Argentine waters when she was sunk, but this has not been verified either way.

Maggie got very snotty that some upstart of a BBC journalist would have the impertinence to question her about this, and although she rode the jingoistic fever to win the next election the writing was on the wall.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549811)

you declare war, you get war,
priority 1 render the enemy incapable or unwilling to take its objectives,
priority 2 try to avoid loss of life on your own side, or on the part of enemy civilians where possible (in that order),
there is no 3
leaving the enemy unharmed because they might die if you kill them seems a little soft even for me. if they are or might be a threat and you can be rid of them without a significant risk to yourself then that is what you do, if they have not surrendered then that means lethal force. If they are still a threat then left the field of battle intact means can come back and try again with fresh stocks of ammo.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550977)

> you declare war, you get war

In fact, neither side declared war, and for the entire period of conflict and some time thereafter Her Majesty's Government was careful not to describe it as a war. Doing so would have caused geopolitical consequences. The UK military call it "Operation Corporate".

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549951)

Because it was stupid question. It was a war. Even by "civilized" war rules you're fair game when retreating. If they didn't want to be blown to bits they should have surrendered and allowed themselves to be captured. Retreating is not the same as surrendering.

You could still get killed while/after surrendering, but then that will be a worthy thing for journalists to ask about.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 8 months ago | (#44550215)

As I recall, the infamous show (Panorama? Newsnight?) had a member of the public, a woman, grilling Thatcher about destroying the Belgrano. I don't think she was a journalist.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550677)

The 'upstart BBC journalist' was in fact a geography teacher, who pointed out during the 1983 general election campaign that the Belgrano was headed away from the Falklands, and Maggie tried to dodge the question by pretending not to understand compass bearings. Caught out in a blatant lie, and the electorate still voted for her....

Re:Yes, but... (5, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | about 8 months ago | (#44550753)

As a member of the UK public at the time, most of us didn't care what direction the Belgrano was heading, if it was the vessel of an enemy which had occupied UK territory then we wanted it sinking. It was being ambiguous which had got the UK into trouble in the first place, so something as unambiguous as a torpedo was sending the right message as far as we were concerned.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

mrbester (200927) | about 8 months ago | (#44551005)

"We" being the jingoistic Sun readers who were as overjoyed as the tabloid was with its front page of "GOTCHA!", presumably. Personally, I found that celebration of death and destruction tasteless in the extreme.

HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Exocet from a Dassault Mirage two days later, most likely as revenge. Critics are of the opinion that if UK hadn't been the first to sink an enemy vessel then none would have been lost on either side.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

maroberts (15852) | about 8 months ago | (#44551199)

i think that's unlikely, personally.

I believe the Argentine navy would, had it not been savaged earlier, parked its carrier within operating range of the Falklands as soon as the landings started. Some loss of life was inevitable from the moment the Argentinians decided to invade the Falklands and not agree to leave. Also the Argentine submarine San Luis fired a torpedo at British ships the day before the sinking, so both sides were on the same page as far as hostilities were concerned.

The Sun headline is agreeably controversial. Whilst regretting the loss of life, I think it expressed some relief that we were on the right side of the scoreboard.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Insightful)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44551325)

HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Exocet from a Dassault Mirage two days later, most likely as revenge

Not really, firstly it was launched from a Super Etendard not a Mirage, secondly the Sheffield attack was the second or third attempt by the Argentinian Navy to attack the carriers using exocet, the Argentinian navy went to a lot of effort to get the Etandarts exocet capable and were intending on using them against the Royal Navy carriers long before the belgrano was sunk. If the exocet attacks were reveng then as advocated by most combat instructors they were trying to get their revenge in first.

. Critics are of the opinion that if UK hadn't been the first to sink an enemy vessel then none would have been lost on either side.

Critics are like arseholes....sorry no Opinons are like arseholes every critic is one. Sorry nope I'll get it right eventually ... Opinions are like arseholes everyone has one, ignore the opinions be guided by the facts. Given that the argentinian Navy was actively seeking out the royal navy carrier battle goup with three task forces and two air attacks on the day the Belgrano was sunk it was obvious that someone was going to come off badly. Unfortunately for those onborad the belgrano she was it. Perhaps ironically as of all the Argentinian navy ships she was best suited to survive a torpedo hit, as some of her sisters did in big mistake II.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44551545)

It may be worth noting that having the capability does not denote intent to use at a particular time or place. Example: many thousands of Americans have firearms, and therefore are technically capable of assassinating a political figure, but they don't.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 8 months ago | (#44550979)

Declaration of War? Check.
Ship with guns on it? Check.
Ship flying flag of nation that declared war? Check.

Empty the guns.

Nobody, in any nation, would give a shit what bearing the ship is on, if the three things stated above are all true.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44551001)

> Declaration of War? Check.
Not check. Argentina did not declare war on Britain, and neither did the British declare war on Argentina.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

jareth-0205 (525594) | about 8 months ago | (#44551125)

The Captain of the Belgrano has publicly declared that he thought the attack that sunk his ship was legitimate. I don't know why we're still talking about this.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44551149)

Yeah, but the Belgrano was running because word leaked out that she was a primary target and when she was engaged she was at full speed towards home

No, she was meandering along at cruising speed to a holding area whilst the Argentinian navy decided what to do next since their ari strike on the Carrier battle group couldn't get airborne because of low winds.

Conqueror had destroy orders even though Belgrano had left the field.

Field...? what field, she was at sea and she was a combatant...to paraphrase Shankly "if she wasn't interfering with play what the fuck was she doing on the pitch"

Some say she was in Argentine waters when she was sunk, but this has not been verified either way.

She was sunk at 5524S 6132W that's more than 12 miles away from anything.

Re:Yes, but... (3, Informative)

Cochonou (576531) | about 8 months ago | (#44549801)

It is unknown how much information the French gave about the Exocet missile and how effective the jamming was, especially given that there has been two other British ships killed by Exocets missiles after the Sheffield. However, what is very well known is that once the war started, there was a world-wide cooperation between the French and the British to prevent the Argentinians from procuring additional Exocet missiles from every weapon market, effectively leaving them with a very limited supply of Exocets. There were a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations (sometimes quite rough) between the French and the British to make this happen.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

Cochonou (576531) | about 8 months ago | (#44549839)

And to elaborate a bit of the "very limited supply" of Exocet missiles the Argentinians had, we are talking about a total number of 5 or so.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550411)

And to elaborate a bit of the "very limited supply" of Exocet missiles the Argentinians had, we are talking about a total number of 5 or so.

5 is enough to criple 5 ships and the political fallout in the UK could inflict even more serious damage as in "let's bring our boys home and let the argentinians have the malvinas".

5 is enough to criple/sink a carrier.

So yeah 5 in an absolute sense is a low number, but when used correctly and fully they could inflict massive damage on the British task force.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

JockTroll (996521) | about 8 months ago | (#44550839)

You underestimate UK (and Argentinian) nationalism in the era. The UK would have taken back the Falklands at any price, and both the British and the Argentinian populace was fully in support of the war. "Bring our boys home" is strictly an American thing.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

augustw (785088) | about 8 months ago | (#44551581)

both the British and the Argentinian populace was fully in support of the war.

I don't know about Argentina, but while the UK population was mostly in support, but far from "fully". Many people objected to the military "task force", and said so, loud and long.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44551359)

5 air launched, another 6 or so ship mounted. 2 lorry mounted (no really.. they took two off a ship and put them on the back of an artic).

Re:Yes, but... (3, Interesting)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | about 8 months ago | (#44549487)

Well, both the the British and Argentinian populations can be distracted through either football or war, and both Thatcher and Galtieri had already exploited football enough, so it was war they required.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#44551129)

The thing is that the British were just about ready to hand over most of the islands to the Argentinians, keeping just the small populated areas. There were secret talks happening the background.

It's never been entirely clear why Galtieri jumped the gun and landed troops. Impatience and a belief that the British were not negotiating seriously, perhaps. If that hadn't happened Argentina would control most of that area today.

Re:Yes, but... (3)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#44549251)

so about as effective as the Harrier jump jets were in defending the fleet ?

Are you claiming they weren't?

Ships get sunk in wars. On at least one occasion a ship was hit because they refused to let the Harriers engage an incoming Argentinian attack and relied on their own missile systems instead... which then failed to fire.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 8 months ago | (#44549541)

You have to remember this was back when the pickets ships were the primary means of defence of the fleet still, you don't want your own ships accidentally shooting down their own air cover, so they positioned the picket well forward. Not necessarily the best plan, but you can see the problem - ultimately the goal is to defend the carriers, not the picket ships. The picket ships actually took out a number of enemy aircraft with missiles because that's their job.

No one likes to say 'sorry, but your job is to get killed before someone on a bigger more important ship' but that's very much the job of destroyers and frigates. You force the enemy to destroy the escorts first, or take the risk of flying over them and getting shot down.

The royal navy suffered very much from several problems, one of having some engineering problems with their ships (turns out aluminium can catch fire), two that they couldn't lock on to ships coming in low, and three couldn't deal with exocet missiles.

The royal navy faced the unenviable challenge of not having enough aircraft (only about 50 total). The Argentine situation meant they could (early on at least) put 30 or 40 aircraft anywhere in a large area of operations. That's a serious problem. You can't have too wide an air cover, you'd have too many aircraft spread out and not be able to defend, and you can't risk a carrier. That problem is overcome by defeating the enemy in detail in small pieces until he doesn't have the force to concentrate. Which is what the royal navy did essentially, they traded destroyers and frigates for aircraft kills until the Argentinians didn't have enough aircraft or exocets, at which point the british had air superiority for a ground invasion.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549859)

No one likes to say 'sorry, but your job is to get killed before someone on a bigger more important ship'

That's actually an incredibly common thing in the military. Well, first logistics (shipping equipment where it's needed), then that.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44551439)

At one point in 100 days Woodward describes how he has to find out if the entrance to Falkland sound has been mined or not. Not having minesweepers his only choice is to choose one of the cheap and cheerful type 21's and see if it gets blown up or not. The ships Captain, Christopher Craig, knowing exactly what was (specifically not) being asked of him pointedly asked Woodward if he wanted him "to zigzag about a bit" to make sure the channel was clear. It was and Alacrity survived. I think Woodward described this action as being very brave and worthy of the highest awards for gallantry, but strangely only if it all had gone wrong.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550675)

turns out aluminium can catch fire

Silly Brits, they should have used aluminum instead!

Re:Yes, but... (1)

iainr (43602) | about 8 months ago | (#44551027)

21 kills for no losses in the air to air role despite being outnumbered by aircraft with superior performance and viewed by the Argentinian Air forces and a difficult and challenging opponent ("La Muerte Negra") not bad going for an aircraft designed to shoot down recon aircraft.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549273)

"no actual damage"? They could permanently blind pilots.

Re:Yes, but... (5, Funny)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#44549347)

"no actual damage"? They could permanently blind pilots.

Look on the bright side. When they were blinded while flying fifty feet off the ground, they would only have about two seconds to worry about whether their eyesight would ever return.

Re:Yes, but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549977)

"no actual damage"? They could permanently blind pilots.

Look on the bright side.

I see what you did there.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Funny)

beckett (27524) | about 8 months ago | (#44550173)

Look on the bright side. When they were blinded while flying fifty feet off the ground, they would only have about two seconds to worry about whether their eyesight would ever return.

such pesssimism! they'd have their whole lives to worry about their eyesight returning.

Re:Yes, but... (2)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 8 months ago | (#44550287)

They weren't designed to cause permanent damage. They used visible light, so the chances are that the pilot would close their eyes before enough heat could damage their retinas. It's the non-visible lasers that cause the real damage as your eyes don't protect themselves and the focussed energy burns the retinas.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550775)

"no actual damage"? They could permanently blind pilots.

There's a huge difference between doing horrible things selectively and having military effectiveness.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549837)

Dazzling could be a euphemism for permanent blindness. Remember to not look into the laser with your remaining eye.

Funny, I thought there was a chemical laser on a tank chassis tested in Vietnam.

I dunno tho', I can't find anything about it now... just the laser guided M60 tank and a later Russian laser tank from the 70s.

However I found an article saying that military brass shut down a project involving chemical laser weapons during Vietnam because blinding enemy soldiers would be inhumane.

And here's what 'dazzle' means .... (1)

fygment (444210) | about 8 months ago | (#44551631)

The cockpit windscreens of aircraft with any kind of service under their belts are replete with micro-cracks even though the windscreens remain transparent to the naked eye. When you shine a laser on the windscreen, all the cracks 'light up' through internal scattering and reflection. The higher power the laser, the more dramatic the effect. For the pilot, the windscreen suddenly becomes a sparkling dazzle of bright pinpricks and lines of whatever colour of laser light is used. This dramatically obscures the pilots view of his/her surroundings which is a serious concern for a pilot flying at low level close to obstructions like say, the ocean and ships (for comparison, picture driving really fast down a two lane highway and someone threw a blanket across your windshield). The desired result is that the aircraft pull up and away hopefully breaking off an attack and also becoming a bit more visible to the ship's radar (ie. out of sea clutter) and hence an easier target.

So, to call these lasers 'weapons' is a stretch. They were an active, short-range, countermeasure, analogous to radio jamming, and didn't damage eyesight, burn skin, melt metal, etc.

THATCHER IS DEAD (0)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 8 months ago | (#44549241)

NOW SINK THE BRITISH EMPIRE FOR GOOD! For a workers socialist federation of the British isles! Annex Scotland to North Korea!

Re:THATCHER IS DEAD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549759)

England is already the fifth or sixth province of Pakistan

"We" who? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 8 months ago | (#44549243)

"Despite recent demonstrations by the US Navy, we still think of laser weapons as being things of the future."

"We" who? Somebody who has been living in a box for the past seventy years?

Re:"We" who? (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 8 months ago | (#44549403)

We have been able to vaporize a human target from space since 1985 [imdb.com] .

Re:"We" who? (2)

stox (131684) | about 8 months ago | (#44549461)

You really mean have been able to pop corn from space since 1985. Though, I guess if it was flavored with enough diacetyl, that might kill someone.

Re:"We" who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549823)

Actually they made popcorn from an airplane.
It probably could have done it from space, was it not for the fact that the laser was sabotaged to fire a long low-intensity beam, which burned up the laser.
However I am not sure how they could have changed the duration and intensity of the beam, it doesn't sound really plausible, unless they use some kind of PWM.

Re:"We" who? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549501)

Omg that's funny.

old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549287)

It has already been known that laser weapons had been deployed since at least the mid 1980's.

Laser - NOT ! (1)

Meoshewu24 (3017453) | about 8 months ago | (#44549315)

Laser seems like a waste since there are some many drones with smart bombs these days.

Re:Laser - NOT ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549601)

Tell that to the computer systems flying the drones... once Skynet comes online, the computer simulations of human death and destruction will increase 10 fold once _they_ have the lasers...

Re:Laser - NOT ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549613)

btw, I can't wait! We get days off work when the robots revolt right?!!

Why never usefull (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549547)

There are hundreds of secret fancy projects to build deadly weapons and find creative ways to kill people while spending their tax money throughout History.

Why don't the various governments ever conspire to produce something for the greater good ?

Something like a 5'000 fucking billion USD research project for curing AIDS or cancer or even an efficient form of renewable energy instead of filling the banking system's gaping holes ?

Are there only evil sociopaths in charge ?

Why don't we just take the laser canons and stick them up their bottoms for utter prejudice inflicted to world's population ?

Considering it's 21st century, couldn't we just declare that from now on, every penny spent for such purposes equates a crime against humanity ?

Re:Why never usefull (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549647)

Not everything can be solved by throwing money and more resources at it; just like women can't birth the parasite out from them in 1 month instead of 9 if you give them money. Since that's a fact, we shouldn't let progress in other 'areas' where progress can be made with money fall by the wayside. That side of progress still yields plenty of fruit

Re:Why never usefull (0)

crutchy (1949900) | about 8 months ago | (#44549729)

Not everything can be solved by throwing money and more resources at it

tell that to ben bernanke

Re:Why never usefull (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44550331)

>Are there only evil sociopaths in charge ?

Yes. That's the requirement to become a politician since about 70 years.
Honest people with good intentions who can't be bribed have no chance. The corporate masters (see ALEC) wouldn't allow it
Or as Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel once put it : "market-conforming democracy" (that's a direct quote. That's exactly what she said)

Everything politicians do in the western (capitalistic) world since the collapse of "the enemy beyond the iron curtain", is to desperately prop up the capitalistic order, carter to companies and try to find new ways to shaft people to transfer more and more money from the bottom masses to a select few on the top until they are the slaves. Not much is missing. The middle class is collapsing, the lower class is getting bigger and poorer every day, and the fat cats on top don't know where to spend their money anymore 'cause they have everything.

We need our own Spring in the western world.

Soviet laser tank (3, Funny)

simonbp (412489) | about 8 months ago | (#44549573)

Yeah, it was just designed to blind optical sensors (and eyeballs), but still: SOVIET LASER TANK.

Re:Soviet laser tank (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#44549681)

I wouldn't minimize blinding weapons at all; I think they could easily be faster, more effective, and more targeted than chemical weapons, for example. (And before you point out nobody has hardly bothered to use those in many decades, recall that finding at least a stash of them was supposed to earn Iraq the "WMD" label, thus justifying the invasion. And that was back when WMD still sort of meant something [nationaljournal.com] ).

Re:Soviet laser tank (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44549827)

That's why they're now banned by international treaty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protocol_on_Blinding_Laser_Weapons

Re:Soviet laser tank (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 8 months ago | (#44549903)

When was any other weapon banned for being "faster, more effective, and more targeted"?

I was under the impression it was because it was considered... well, I'm not sure, not sporting? to blind your opponents for the rest of their lives, as opposed to shredding them instantly with hot slivers of metal death. Exactly why everyone was so enthusiastic to adopt a ban on blinding weapons, took a bit longer with landmines, but haven't got round to nuclear bombs is a bit of a puzzler to me - except perhaps that it's a lot easier to ban something before everyone has them.

Prime Minister's Office files (PREM) files (2)

auric_dude (610172) | about 8 months ago | (#44549765)

Can be ordered / viewed via the National Archive https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/prem-highlights-1983.htm [nationalarchives.gov.uk] , http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/s/res?_q=PREM%2019/972 [nationalarchives.gov.uk] , http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C13497591 [nationalarchives.gov.uk] & http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/01/national-archives-cabinet-papers-1983 [theguardian.com] As for use of the lasers weapons, I can find no links but with suspicions of such weapons being deployed on the Kirov I expect it added another thing to be considered by the attacking airman.

So? (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 8 months ago | (#44549795)

What are we supposed to do with this lame, old information? It is no secret that lasers were already appearing in weaponry by then. Lasers were used by British commandos on the ground to designate targets for the free-fall bombs dropped by Vulcan bombers in Operation Black Buck [wikipedia.org] .

Not new nor classified (3, Interesting)

post_toastie (649723) | about 8 months ago | (#44549861)

If you played the 'Harpoon' paper and pencil naval wargame in the late 80s, early 90s - not the later computer game that was based on the board game - this system was available to British ships in the Falkland Island scenarios. Given that the rules for the game were based on openly published data, I don't see how this is really 'news' to anyone. A quick search shows that there are references to this system in other publications in the 90s as well. The game effect was to cause planes at low altitude to break off their attack. For planes at very low altitude, namely Argentine pilots trying to fly below the engagement altitude of British SAMs, there was a percentage chance the plane would crash into the water.

Hardly news (2)

XNormal (8617) | about 8 months ago | (#44550145)

"The pity was that Plymouth had not had time to turn right around, because she was fitted with the new laser equipment known locally to us as "Flasher" - which could well have stopped the attack in its tracks, because it literally forces any incoming pilot to pull up sharply during the forty-second period in which he cannot see."

from One Hundred Days by Admiral Sandy Woodward (1992)

An updated version of a WWII trick (1)

Shag (3737) | about 8 months ago | (#44550413)

Jasper Maskelyne (of the stage-magician family) did something similar with searchlights and mirrors during WWII (North African campaign, if I recall) - sending flashes of light into the sky to disorient (or "disorientate" as the Brits would say) German pilots. So it was hardly a new idea, just a different light source that's worse for the eyes.

royal shark brigades? (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | about 8 months ago | (#44550419)

The have amitted to the lasers but are rhe sharks wearing them still classified?

Re:royal shark brigades? (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 8 months ago | (#44550767)

The have admitted to the lasers but are the sharks wearing them still classified?

That's why we're still pretending we sunk the Belgrano with a submarine and torpedoes...

Not quite (2)

sunking2 (521698) | about 8 months ago | (#44551549)

Circa 1982 what they really meant was that they had covert plans to bedazzle Argentine pilots denim jackets, thus reducing combat efficiency as they marveled at their new designer clothes at retail prices.

hilarious techniacl cock-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44551791)

When the Brits landed @ St Carlos Water, they immediately deployed their Rapier anti-aircraft missiles as a perimeter to defend their landing area, & thought they were well defended as the missiles had a good track record, & were a pretty good defence.
Sure enough, shortly, the Argie Skyhawks tooled over @ low level & started their bombruns on the ships at anchor. The AA officer hit the tit on the Rapier control panel, &, promptly the main fuse blew. The Argies had a nice safe, (except for the fact that every gun that could was firing at them), run @ the stationary ships, who were not best pleased by this.
Nobody had ever fired all the Rapiers at once, as the cost was deemed too much for an exercise. Needless to say, the fuse was shorted PDQ, & the missiles at least made the Argies take Plan B sooner, rather than later.

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