Friendly Fire with a Laser

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There are reports of “friendly fire” accidents in Iraq using very high powered green laser “dazzlers.”  Some of these green lasers are good up to four miles away and pose a nominal occular hazard distance (that means if you shine it in someone’s eyes it will hurt them) to 1460 meters.  That’s 9/10 of a mile.

Whoa.

In one single unit in Iraq, there have been twelve green laser incidents involving fourteen soldiers, with varying injuries.  Three of these guys had to be medevac’ed out, and one guy lost sight in one eye.  Apparently these “incidents” happen when someone is new to Iraq – I assume it’s because they haven’t yet had the proper training.  I always thought everyone knew not to shine lasers in people’s eyes.  I watched an LD nearly give himself a stroke screaming at a stagehand who shined a laser penlight into his eyes.  I just assumed people knew better.

There are devices called “laser dazzlers” that are non-lethal weapons used to create temporary vision impairment, sometimes from a distance.  These dazzlers are about 8 grand and are military-grade – they’re made for distance warning and visual impairment to stop someone from advancing.  The checkpoint troops in Iraq are said to use devices like this to shine through the windshield of a car that won’t stop at a checkpoint.  It’s non-lethal, no one has to die using it.

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The dazzler is the flashlight-shaped thing – the pistol handle just slides on the end like in the pic.

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This is the CHP Laser Dazzler at 200 meters.

Here’s something weird though – according to the blog The Danger Room, the Marines ordered a bunch of these green laser dazzlers for exactly this purpose – they’re rated to shine in people’s faces at a “safe distance” from the subject.  They ordered the CHP Laser Dazzler (the one above), proven to be safe and used by law enforcement all over the country.  Instead, the Marine higher-ups decided that they thought the men on the ground needed this other laser dazzler, 2 grand more expensive and not supposed to be shone in anyone’s eyes – it’s one of the lasers with the 1400 foot eye damage range, made by BE Meyers, and called a Green Beam Designator (GBDIII).  The CHP dazzler, the one they ordered, is only dangerous at 29 meters for a quarter-of-a-second, or at 45 meters for ten seconds.

It sort of seems like the wrong tool got picked for the job, huh.  There’s video below of soldiers in Iraq testing the dazzler, which I believe in this case is the near-mile dangerous one.

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