In what could either be seen as a science-fiction dream or a terrifying, realistic nightmare, Chinese forces could soon be equipped with a rifle described as the ‘laser AK-47’.
While death rays and laser weapons have been a staple of science fiction for decades, real laser weapons have started to appear in the arsenals of militaries and police forces, though typically used for non-lethal purposes.
For example, the US Department of Defense recently trialled a weapon designed to manipulate molecules to create painful sound waves in a particular location to disperse a crowd.
Now, according to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese police are about to be the recipients of a laser weapon with a sci-fi name and sci-fi powers.
The ZKZM-500 is a laser assault rifle that also falls under the non-lethal category, producing an invisible energy beam capable of passing through windows to target a particular location, with the intention of neutralising a perceived threat.
This all sounds similar to what the Americans are developing, that is until you start to hear from the researchers who helped develop the rifle at the Xi’an Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the Shaanxi province.
‘It will look like an accident’
When the beam makes contact with the target’s skin, it causes “instant carbonisation” and is able to “burn through clothes in a split second … If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire.”
A researcher involved in the project said that for anyone hit with the beam, “the pain will be beyond endurance”.
Another researcher added that the rifle could be a great weapon for covert military operations as “nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident.”
The device itself seems to be ready for mass production, with anti-terrorism squads in the armed division of the Chinese police force set to be the first to receive them.
In terms of design, the rifle does indeed seem sci-fi-like, with its blocky appearance, a weight of 3kg and a range of up to 800 metres. It can also be attached to most vehicles.
Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, the rifle could fire up to 1,000 shots on a single charge with bursts lasting no more than two seconds.
Given the potential power of such a device, its sale at $15,000 apiece is likely to be tightly controlled, with only the Chinese military or police being allowed to use them.
It seems only a matter of time before we see a surge in future reports of ‘spontaneous combustion’ from China.