China's smog will 'defend it from US lasers' says admiral

By Stefan Van Assche, February 26, 2014

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Leave it to China to see the upside of a devastating pollution problem. The country's thick layer of smog may be its best defence against the US Navy’s Laser Weapon System, providing a smokescreen that would render the technology almost useless, according to a Chinese expert.

PLA Navy real admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, a military expert at the National Defence University, said on CCTV’s Haixia Liangan current affairs program last week that the hazy conditions caused by smog are a laser’s worst nightmare and “fatal weakness”.

The interview took place after the American navy announced it was preparing to position its first laser weapon, designed to fire beams that can burn through drones and smaller boats, aboard a transport ship in the Middle East later this year.

"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 asked. “A weapon that can only attack under clear weather conditions is useless”. He also pointed out that extremely foggy conditions at sea are inevitable.

Echoing previous claims in state media that pollution can help protect the country from missiles, Zhang explained that smog was made up of tiny metallic airborne particles, and the higher their PM number (diameter in micrometers), the harder it is for lasers to penetrate.

China seems rather well-protected in this case, as its PM2.5 levels are pretty damn high. 25 micrograms per cubic meter is the level considered safe by the WHO, but various cities in China regularly record levels exceeding 115 micrograms. The air quality index of these cities often goes off the charts of the typical scale, which stops at 500 (with rare peaks of 900), considered “extremely hazardous”. Unless you’re hiding from lasers, that is.

Laser weapons are regarded as particularly valuable by the US Navy because they can attack targets at hypersonic (Mach 5 and above) speeds without running out of ammunition. They are also cheap, costing as little as a few dollars per shot compared to $1.5 million for a single interceptor missile.  

According to a report by the Voice of Russia, a Russian state broadcaster, the real purpose of deploying a laser weapon is to boost America’s image as a military superpower at the cutting edge of the latest technological developments.

Still, if the technology proves a success, perhaps America would be able re-establish its global supremacy, given that not many countries are lucky enough to have China's protective covering of smog. 

[Image via CNS]

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