Australia condemns China for shining a laser from a Navy Vessel onto a plane

The Australian defense force says it's a worryingly growing trend.
Fabienne Lang
Chinese vessel lasing ADF aircraftAustralian Government Department of Defence

Australia's Department of Defence confirmed that a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warship illuminated one of its Air Force jets with a laser last Thursday, February 17. 

The plane that detected the laser was a P-8A Poseidon and in this case, Australia is certain the laser came from a PLAN warship, per its press release. The incident took place over the Arafura Sea. Since then, the vessel, in company with another PLAN ship, has sailed east to the Coral Sea.

Images of both vessels are published on the Australian Government's website. According to the ships' hull numbers, visible on the images, they are the guided-missile destroyer Hefei and the amphibious transport dock Jinggang Shan. No mention of which vessel used the laser was shared.

"Acts like this have the potential to endanger lives. We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct," read the statement. 

"These actions could have endangered the safety and lives of the ADF personnel. Such actions are not in keeping with the standards we expect of professional militaries," it continued. 

China has yet to issue a response statement.

Dangers of shining lasers into pilots' eyes

"Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety risk and violates federal law. Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots," the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated.

The glare caused by the laser can spread so widely the pilot is unable to see past it, explains Laser Point Safety. Aside from potential eye damage and eye injuries, a pilot can be worried about the laser being a precursor to a weapon going off in their direction. 

If a pilot doesn't have enough time to react, the consequences of having a laser blurring, blinding, or incapacitating their vision in any way can be dire and fatal. Lasers can be used for a number of reasons, such as the U.S. Navy using a laser weapon to take down a drone. So it comes as little surprise the Australian defense force has reacted strongly. 

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