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US: Pentagon says Chinese have aimed lasers at US planes in Djibouti, causing two injuries

In a May 3 2018 press conference, a Pentagon spokesperson said that China has aimed lasers at American aircraft at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti between two and 10 times. On one occasion, this caused two minor, unspecified injuries with no long-term effects to pilots of an Air Force C-130 Hercules.

Spokesperson Dana White said the reason for the laser activity is unknown, “but it’s serious, we take it seriously.” She said it was “a true threat to our airmen”. The U.S. has protested and has asked the Chinese government to investigate.

Another Pentagon spokesperson, Major Sheryll Klinke, said the C-130 pilots were hit with a “military grade” laser.

On April 14 2018, the US military posted this notice to airmen (NOTAM) on the Federal Aviation Administration website, warning about “unauthorized laser activity” in Djibouti.

Pic 2018-05-03 at 7.51.55 PM

The NOTAM was scheduled to expire on June 14.

The NOTAM coordinates (N1135.70 E04303.14) are about 2,400 feet from China’s military base in Djibouti, opened August 1 2017 near Camp Lemonnier.

An article in the quasi-official South China Morning Post referred to “Chinese military observers [who] said the lasers might have been used to scare off birds near the airfield or disrupt possible spy drones, rather than targeting foreign pilots. A Beijing-based military analyst said China has already demonstrated laser weapons being used against drones, at airshows.

China is a signatory to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, which bans the use of lasers that cause permanent blindness. The protocol does not ban laser dazzlers, which temporarily impair vision but do not cause eye damage. It is also permitted under the Protocol to use lasers to disrupt or damage cameras and sensors such as those on missiles or satellites.

According to The Drive, “As of 2015, Chinese forces had access to at least four different man-portable systems, the BBQ-905, PY131A, PY132A, and the WJG-2002, all of which look like oversized assault rifles or shoulder-fired grenade launchers.”


From The Drive, Janes 360, C4ISRNET, Defense News, South China Morning Post, FAA PilotWeb, and a YouTube video of the May 3 2018 Pentagon press briefing by Dana White. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATED May 4 2018: China’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry both denied the U.S. allegations of laser use by China.

US: Some reports of Christmas laser lights causing interference

There have been 13 incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that involve, or possibly involve, laser Christmas lights, from November 20 through December 2 2017.

The first reported Christmas-related incident of 2017 came on November 20. As of this writing, December 2 is the last date for which incident information is available.

There are 13 days from November 20 through December 2. With 13 potential Christmas-related incidents, that is a rate of one Christmas incident per day.

In the previous 323 days of 2017, from January 1 through November 19, there were 5,734 incidents or 17.8 per day.

So Christmas lights appear to be adding one extra incident per day (a 5.6% increase), early in the holiday season.

This story will be updated as additional December incident data becomes available.

Based on FAA incident reporting. See our page on Christmas holiday laser projectors for more information, plus these pages about holiday lighting reports here and here.

US: FAA to impose civil penalties

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 1 2011 that they will impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 on any person who aims laser beams at aircraft.

Many more details about this new policy are at LaserPointerSafety.com’s main article, which is here.

Australia: UPDATED - 2008 "cluster attack" caused by boys on bicycles

In an incident in late March 2008, six planes had to alter their flight paths into Sydney’s airport after pilots reported a “coordinated cluster attack” of “up to four” laser beams. This incident has been cited numerous times as perhaps being a dry run or test for some more sinister laser usage.

However, it turns out that this incident was caused by boys on bicycles, apparently acting without pre-planning and not knowing how the lasers would affect pilot vision. During a Feb. 2011 briefing to the SAE G10T laser safety group , FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said that the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories: “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.”

Hempen said that investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the Sydney "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. He noted that the youths’ local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area.

Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”

Based on a Feb. 1, 2011 presentation to SAE G10T.