Chinese outlets are reporting that researchers have built a “laser AK-47,” a light and man-portable “less-lethal” weapon. The weapon, called the “ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle,” is allegedly effective out to 800 meters.
That’s very impressive for a package that weighs just over 6.5 pounds. On top of that, the ZKZM-500 carries a charge capable of firing 1,000 two-second shots. The rifle is powered by a common lithium-ion battery pack.
According to a researcher, the laser weapon causes intense pain and “instant carbonisation” of skin and other tissue. It’s supposed to be able to burn through clothes in a split second and ignite flammable materials, even through light cover.
Researchers at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences say their prototype is ready for mass production. Production rifles will cost about $15,000 each.
The team says the guns will only be offered to Chinese military and police users. Because international law prohibits certain laser weapon systems, these have to be classified and used as less-lethal weapons.
Uses for these guns includes crowd control, hostage rescue and covert military operations. The researcher, who asked not to be named, said that the laser is powerful enough set gas tanks and even fuel storage facilities ablaze.
SEE ALSO: Lasers Greater Than Bullets? Army Contractor Announces Successful Test of In-Sky Laser Weapon
On top of everything else, the laser makes no noise and the light beam is invisible. If used for covert warfare, “Nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident,” said the researcher.
The ZKZM-500 is the second such recently announced laser weapon. The Chengdu Hengan Police Equipment Manufacturing just developed a laser rifle with a 500-meter range and significant charge.
If all this sounds like science fiction, it’s because it might just be. Laser safety officer Phil Broughton says that these guns stretch the limits of laser device capabilities.
“To make this work, you need a serious battery pack, some even more serious capacitors, optics that can take all this without turning back into sand at these energy densities, and rugged enough that you can treat this like military hardware,” Broughton told C4ISR. “This is a ‘best case scenario operation only’ weapon if there ever was one.”
He also said running a system at this level presents a serious risk to the user. “If the battery pack, caps, or the optical train catastrophically fails during a shot, you have a gravely injured soldier who is holding a small wrecked Tesla,” he said.
The U.S. military, the Navy in particular, has been busy on their own directed energy weapon systems. These weapons are typically vehicle- or ship-mounted due to their power requirements.