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Tuesday, January 11, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

British firm tests laser defense against piracy

LONDON — The world's leading defense company has developed a laser to protect ships from piracy.


BAE Systems has tested a laser to stop pirates from intercepting merchant ships. The London-based company has demonstrated a non-lethal prototype that could warn of pirates at a distance of at least two kilometers, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The whole concept of the anti-piracy campaign that BAE sytems are undertaking is how we might be able to take military technology and employ it in a commercial environment," BAE business development manager Bryan Hore said.

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Executives said the laser prototype was meant to provide a feasible and affordable system for merchant ships that move through such pirate-infested waterways as the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. They cited an increase in attacks by Somali pirates throughout the Gulf region.

BAE said the laser could disorient pirates so they could not use their weapons for an attack. They identified the prototype as a Neodymium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet laser, which did not require high levels of power.

Executives said the laser was tested during day and night as well as in rain. They said the laser targeting system could be integrated into a merchant ship's radar and sensors for semi-autonomous operation.

BAE has also installed safety features to protect the laser from being used by unauthorized people, including pirates who manage to board a merchant ship. Executives said the prototype would require additional development.

"Our next step is to look at things like multiple targets, the remote use of the system and further safety aspects," Hore said.

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