A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US, China: Chinese warship used light to attack US spy ship

A secret cable newly-revealed by WikiLeaks states that a U.S. survey ship was attacked for 30 minutes by a Chinese warship aiming a bright white narrow-beam light. The March 8 2008 incident took place in the East China Sea. According to the U.S. State Department cable, “the light was of such intensity that it temporarily impaired the visual acumen of USNS Victorious personnel and thereby constituted a hazard to navigation.”

Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State at the time, sent the cable to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Rice said that China’s actions were “provocative and inconsistent” with the law of the sea” and “constitute serious harassment and elevate the risk of miscalculation.”

Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, who broke the story, was unable to find out whether the light was a laser or a high-powered searchlight. Gertz also pointed to parallels with the 1997 suspected laser use by the Russian merchant ship Kapitan Man.

From the Washington Times

Analysis: Based on the color, LaserPointerSafety.com believes it is a conventional light. To produce a white light beam with lasers requires superimposition of three or more single-color lasers. This is more difficult than using a single-color laser, and would not provide any significant benefit in a situation such as the ship attack. (If countermeasure anti-laser goggles are being used, then it may be beneficial to use multiple wavelengths. It is more difficult to defend against multiple wavelengths, and doing so would reduce conventional visibility since red, green and blue light would all be blocked. Even here, balancing the wavelengths to produce a “white” light is not necessary.)