Blinding them with science: Is development of a banned laser weapon continuing?

Dan Drollette Jr in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

LasergunThe subject gets little publicity nowadays, but until the mid-1990s, the US Air Force openly funded research on how to destroy human eyeballs at a distance with lasers. At the time, the justification was that such a technology—causing permanent blindness—was no worse than burning people with napalm, irradiating them, or blasting them to bits with bombs.

The research got quite far along; in 1995, Human Rights Watch identified at least 10 different laser blinding programs of concern, which the military ran under the names “laser countermeasure system,” BOSS, Persuader, LX-5, Saber 203, TLOS, Green Laser, Nighthawk, and Y-Blue, among others. In that same year a treaty, the New Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, was adopted by the United Nations; it banned such weaponry, and Bulletin contributing editor William Arkin penned a full-page story applauding the ban. He wrote: “The humanitarian considerations of this potentially horrific new chapter in warfare far outweighed the minor—and redundant—military benefit.”

But while the weapon itself was banned, research into laser weaponry was not, so work on it continued, under other rubrics.

More here.