San Francisco Chronicle
August 7, 1992

Lasers May Be the Next
Battlefield Weapon


    The U.S. military is quietly developing new lightweight lasers that can blind soldiers on the battlefield, New Scientist magazine reported yesterday.
    The hand-portable lasers weigh about 25 pounds and could also be used to knock out optical sensor equipment such as gun sights and closed-circuit television systems used by tanks.
    The United States shipped two 395-pound Stingray anti-sensor lasers to the Middle East during the Gulf War in 1991 but they were not used, a Pentagon spokesman was quoted as saying.
    "A new generation of much smaller laser weapons is quietly being readied for the battlefield," the British magazine said. "They will pack just enough power to attack the most vulnerable targets — optical sensors and human eyes."
    The New Scientist said the Pentagon is developing goggles to protect soldiers' eyes against lasers.
    "Indeed some military analysts propose equipping soldiers with black eye patches so that at least one eye would survive a laser attack," the magazine said. "It is not clear how soldiers feel about this strategy."
    Laboratory technicians conducting laser experiments gave indications of what it is like to be hit by a laser. One, who nearly lost the sight of an eye, said he heard a popping sound as the laser hit his eyeball before blood started to flow.
    "It was like viewing the world through a round fishbowl of glycerol into which a quart of blood and a handful of black pepper have been partially mixed," he said.