Electronic Weapons: The Blinking Green Bewilderness


June 8, 2010: The U.S. Army is testing a green laser “dazzler” device in Afghanistan. The laser is mounted in the CROWS (remotely controlled gun turret) found in many hummers and most armored vehicles. The main function of the dazzler is to get vehicles approaching check points at high speed to stop. Troops don’t know if the approaching vehicle, especially at night, is a suicide bomber or a driver simply seeking to buzz past the check point. Without the dazzler, the only option is to open fire. This often gets civilians killed. Most Afghans don’t appreciate the security aspect, and believe a driver has the right to try and zip past a checkpoint. The dazzler can also be used on hostile gunmen, to ruin their aim. These new American lasers are called GLEF (Green Laser Escalation of Force).

Similar green lasers have been around for a while. Last year, Canada bought 750 similar “Visual Warning Technology (VWT) systems, for about $7,500 each. These are eye safe (they won't blind you permanently) green laser pointers mounted in a weather proof, articulated enclosure, that enables the troops to operate the laser remotely, to flash the laser light at oncoming drivers, to get them to stop at checkpoints, or other locations.

U.S. troops first discovered, five years ago, that the green laser pointer could be used to force oncoming drivers to halt. These commercial pointers, used at briefings and such, have a range of about two kilometers, and cost about $70. Eventually, the U.S. Army bought them in bulk and distributed them to troops manning checkpoints or base entrances. The new device, mounted in CROWS, is easier to aim and use, and also can quickly add machine-gun fire if the dazzled target turns out to be hostile.

Unlike urban Iraq, where information gets around quickly, the Canadians in Afghanistan also launched a publicity campaign there to get people, especially those in rural areas where the troops operate, informed about the green lasers. Even if people don't get the message, they will know enough to hit the brakes if they get an eye full of green laser.



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