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Australia Chinese fishing vessels suspected of increasingly common laser attacks on Australian military

18:51  05 december  2019
18:51  05 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Australia military pilots were targeted by lasers aimed at them from fishing trawlers in the South China Sea during Australian forces have noticed an increase in the use of lasers across the region, the “Some helicopter pilots had lasers pointed at them from passing fishing vessels ,” Graham said.

"Some helicopter pilots had lasers pointed at them from passing fishing vessels ," Euan Graham of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute wrote on The Graham was aboard HMAS Canberra, a helicopter landing dock and flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, as it operated in the South China Sea and

a close up of a red light at night: Australian pilots of MHR90 helicopters were targeted with lasers earlier this year. (Airbus Australia Pacific, file)© Provided by ABC NEWS Australian pilots of MHR90 helicopters were targeted with lasers earlier this year. (Airbus Australia Pacific, file)

Hand-held lasers are increasingly being used against Australian Defence Force assets, with military insiders blaming small Chinese maritime militia vessels for the dangerous tactic.

Earlier this year, the Defence Department confirmed Royal Australian Navy Tiger helicopters were targeted on a night-time flight in the hotly contested South China Sea.

The pilots were temporarily forced to return to their ship for medical check-ups following the incident, which occurred in May during the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 exercise.

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“Some helicopter pilots had lasers pointed at them from passing fishing vessels , temporarily grounding them for precautionary medical reasons The Australian National University maritime law expert Don Rothwell noted this was the first time the Australian military had been the target of lasers .

Those attacks happened in the East African country of Djibouti. The U.S. military said in those “The Wall Street Journal reported that military officials don’t necessarily believe the attacks were initiated by They were not able to confirm with the official that they spoke with what kind of grade ( military

Now Defence has revealed the use of lasers from fishing vessels appears to be on the rise, particularly in congested waters.

"ADF personnel operating on vessels and aircraft have observed, in recent years, an increase in the use of low-strength hand-held lasers by some fishing vessels," the Defence Department said.

"The reason for fishing vessels using the lasers is unknown, but this may have been to draw attention to their presence in congested waterways."

Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy personnel in a South China Sea military display last year.© Reuters Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy personnel in a South China Sea military display last year. In a formal response to questions from Labor senator Penny Wong, Defence said it was important to "distinguish between the use of low-strength lasers by fishing boats and the more powerful military-grade laser devices employed by military, coast guard and some civilian vessels".

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Australian military targeted with lasers in South China Sea. Chinese militia vessels are believed to be responsible for the attacks , and helicopters were forced to land as a precaution. China maintains a robust maritime militia in the South China Sea composed of fishing vessels equipped to

Laser attacks against U.S. forces have spread out of Africa into the Pacific. U.S. personnel operating in the East China Sea area have been the victim The increasing sophistication of these lasers implies Chinese state support for the laser attacks . There’s also the question as to how simple fishing boat

"Australia would view reports of the more powerful military-grade laser devices being used against civilian and military vessels as deeply concerning and potentially dangerous," she said.

"There have been no reports of military-grade lasers being used against Royal Australian Navy or Royal Australian Air Force units in the last 12 months," the Department confirmed.

Senior Defence figures say Chinese-flagged fishing vessels operating as part of Beijing's maritime militia are known to employ the tactic against military aircraft that transit through the South China Sea.

Doctor Euan Graham from Latrobe University was embedded on an Australian warship during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 and believes Chinese fishing vessels were to blame for the laser attacks.

"I think it's consistent with a long-term objective on the part of China to make life difficult for foreign militaries operating in and over the South China Sea, not necessarily by force-on-force encounters but rather by making use of indirect means including the so-called 'maritime militia'," he said.

"It's highly dangerous because anything that blinds the sight of pilots even temporarily will incapacitate them and increase the chance of a collision or an emergency landing."

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