China’s newly announced ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle is able to “burn through clothes in a split second… If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire. The pain will be beyond endurance,” according to a Chinese weapons expert cited in a bombshell South China Morning Post report.
News of this latest handheld directed energy weapon, described as a “laser AK-47” is now going viral as its claimed capabilities are jaw-dropping, foremost being that it can ignite materials from a half-mile away, and that it can cause the “instant carbonisation” of human skin and tissues.
But some in the US military and veteran community are already calling bullshit as the report appears but the latest in the tit-for-tat propaganda war with the Pentagon over advanced military tech.
Here are further ZKZM-500’s capabilities, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) exclusive:
What could go wrong? The SCMP report assures that “Given their potential for misuse, the design and production of the devices will be tightly monitored and the only customers will be China’s military and police.”
There are currently no international or UN-enforced bans on such advanced technology, only the UN Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, signed in 1980, which focuses on older technology that could cause loss of eyesight if used against aircraft or ships.
The report further envisions the ZKZM-500’s use in both covert operations and police hostage situations: “it could be used to fire through windows at targets and temporarily disable the kidnappers while other units move in to rescue their captives,” and further: “It could also be used in covert military operations. The beam is powerful enough to burn through a gas tank and ignite the fuel storage facility in a military airport.”
However, the military website Task & Purpose says the dubious SCMP report is “probably bullshit” while identifying a number of the claims as highly suspect based on what’s currently known about laser technology.
Task & Purpose lists the following problematic examples:
And given all that’s claimed about the weapon, the price tag floated in the report seems quite economical given that enemies could be “carbonized” from afar without any hint of where the shot came from. The SCMP report lists “large-scale production at a cost of 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) a unit” — which again is not bad for such a sci-fi weapon that makes its possessor pretty much all-powerful in the face of conventional weapons.
Public disclosure of the weapon first appeared via a technical document published on a government-run website, the Public Service Platform for National Civil-Military Integration, which listed possible applications as countering “illegal protests” by setting fire to banners from a long distance or that protest leaders could be targeted by setting fire to their clothing or hair which, the document says, would mean they lose “the rhythms of their speech and powers of persuasion”.
While we are also skeptical concerning some of the claims surrounding this latest Chinese laser gun, and await proof of its capabilities through an official field test video, it doesn’t actually seem so far outside the realm of possibility considering what can now be built in a garage.
In 2015 Military.com covered the story of an American teenager who built a “laser shotgun” in his garage and demonstrated it could light things on fire from meters away. If this was accomplished three years ago by industrious American kids in garages, imagine what the Chinese military-industrial complex can do. So there is probably reason to be concerned.
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