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Iran: U.S. ship and helicopter targeted by laser on Iranian merchant ship

A U.S. Navy destroyer and one of its helicopters, in international waters off the coast of Yemen, were targeted multiple times over four days by a laser on an Iranian merchant vessel. The laser harassment began July 5 and ended July 8 2015.

There were no reports of injuries or damage caused by the laser, so the Navy “believes it was not of industrial or military grade quality….” A Navy public affairs officer from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command called the Iranian use of the laser as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

From CNN and Stars and Stripes. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention. Note: The U.S. Navy in November 2014 deployed the first laser weapon sent into trials on an active duty warship, the USS Ponce. Six commercial welding lasers are merged into a single beam of 30 kilowatts, that can be used against targets including Iranian gunboats, according to SlashGear.

US: DOD confirms eye injury to copter passenger; perhaps from Russian vessel Kapitan Man?

On April 4 1997, an American naval officer onboard a Canadian military helicopter suffered eye pain and injuries that “would be expected from exposure to a low level laser, such as a laser range-finder”. The pain came after a patrol photographing merchant vessels near Seattle, including the Russian ship M/V Kapitan Man.

Coast Guard and Navy personnel boarded the vessel on April 7 but were unable to find any laser device, or evidence of a possible device. U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly was then examined by military laser eye injury experts, who found “there was a high probability that the minor burns on the lieutenant's right retina were caused by multiple laser exposures such as might result from a single glimpse at a repetitive pulsed laser.”

1997-KapitanMan
The American naval officer took this photo showing a red light on the M/V Kapitan Man. The light led some to suspect a laser. However, subsequent inspection did not find a laser, and in the location of the red light were “two deep red running lights … that met the guidelines established for sidelights.”


The U.S. Defense Department concluded that “[a]vailable evidence does not indicate…what the source of such an exposure might have been. Specifically, there is no physical evidence tying the eye injury of the American officer to a laser located on the Russian merchant vessel.”

The case was also discussed in the August 2004 medical journal Archives of Ophthalmology. The article “Assessment of Alleged Retinal Laser Injuries” describes “Case 5” and concludes that “…[n]o evidence of laser injury was found in the years after the incident by 17 other ophthalmologists, including 5 neuro-ophthalmalogists and 8 retina specialists. A trial was held 5 years after the incident in which the retina specialist who made the initial diagnosis steadfastly maintained all the photographer’s [naval officer’s] symptoms were due to retinal laser injury. A jury ruled against the photographer’s claim for damages against the ship’s owner.… The patient had real complaints, but they were caused by preexisting autoimmune problems rather than by laser injury.”

The full text of the DOD press release, and the “Case 5” study is below (click the “Read More…” link). Additional information above is from a 2011 Washington Times story.

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