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Piracy News & Commentary

Anti-Pirate Laser

BAE Systems, the second largest defense contractor in the world, is attempting to market an anti-pirate laser. Aimed at approaching pirates, the laser will cause temporary blindness.

I have reservations about non-lethal anti-pirate measures, for, to be entirely effective, they must be backed up by lethal measures--firearms, that is, in case their perimeter is breached, so to speak. Although sonic lasers had an early success or two, they appear to have fallen by the wayside after a ship, armed with one, was captured by Somali pirates.

The issues with the practical, successful use of a laser against pirates are several. Can it be used effectively against "swarm" attacks by multiple pirate vessels? Will the operators be protected from small arms fire from pirates? Can the laser be depressed (its aim lowered) enough to engage pirates who manage to get close to the ship? At some point, the laser obviously will not be able to engage at all points aft. Will the operators be armed, or have armed guards as a backup, in case pirates do board or get close to the hull of the ship? What is the likelihood that pirates can obtain the necessary eye protection to protect themselves against the laser? Last, and perhaps most important to shipping companies, how expensive will the system be to lease or purchase, man, and maintain?
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