Chinese military lasers injure United States military pilots in Africa

Marines djibouti

Marines djibouti

The Federal Aviation Administration has documented numerous cases of laser pointers being directed at commercial aircraft; a laser beam in the eye can incapacitate pilots.

The U.S. has a large base in Djibouti, a strategically important location on the Horn of Africa. "And so we raised the issue with China, and we expect China to investigate it thoroughly". Djibouti has become a hub of foreign military activity in recent years, hosting bases from an array of countries including France, Italy and Japan.

Former U.S. Air Force Pacific commander and research analyst Trey Meeks, though, said China's actions could be viewed as "harassment".

In one of the first such confrontations in the busy Indian Ocean region that now accounts for more than half of the world's commercial traffic, accused Chinese military personnel in the East African entrepot of Djibouti of laser attacks against American pilots operating at its nearby base, causing eye injuries to two of them. US officials said the beam is coming from a military grade laser, and that they are confident the Chinese are behind the incidents.

The Pentagon says reports from pilots indicate that on three occasions the lasers were military grade and came from the Chinese base nearby.

"They are very serious incidents ..."

USA military officials stressed the gravity of the situation, stating that such activity can result in major aviation accidents.

United States pilots have begun wearing eye protection or visors for protection, and are even planning their flights around Chinese military flights, The Journal reported.

Both Washington and Beijing are signatories of the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons - an worldwide agreement that bans the use of laser weapons causing permanent blindness.

China has not responded to the accusations, but in the past he has expressed dissatisfaction with foreign military reconnaissance aircraft flying over the base in Djibouti, according to people familiar with the situation sources. He recently said that China's new base allows it to install communication, and possibly interception, systems that allow it to monitor what other powers are doing. As a result of the accidents, Djibouti requested that the USA temporarily cease aviation activity.

The Djiboutian government is already on edge with USA military options following a series of aviation accidents in the eastern African nation this year.

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