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When blinding someone with a laser is better than killing them

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 2:57pm
Jason Lomberg, Digital Editor

Sometimes, it’s better to shine a bright light in someone’s face than riddle them with bullets (shocking, I know). And for troops in a warzone following very specific Escalation of Force (EOF) procedures, not killing someone is always the best possible outcome.

That’s the idea behind EOF – that and giving troops specific authorization for employing lethal force should the situation escalate.

But EOF is a double-edged sword for our deployed servicemembers. In the event of a skirmish, EOF can shield troops from legal ramifications. But following a prescribed list of directives in a volatile situation can impede direct action, leading to loss of life. Not to mention the bad press that accompanies those same actions. Avoiding these entanglements altogether is the best solution, if nearly impossible.

The Marine Corps’ Ocular Interruption System (OIS) – a weapons-mounted or handheld “dazzling” laser – aims to solve these thorny scenarios by warning (primary) and suppressing (secondary) individuals at a 10-500 meter standoff. The OIS will replace the GLARE MOUT 532P-M and LA-9/P Green Beam Laser Systems, two similar non-lethal deterrents.

Ideally, these systems temporarily interfere with the subject’s vision without causing permanent eye damage. They’re most useful at “lethal force authorized zones” (i.e., checkpoints), where troops can employ an “intense visual cueing device to hail and warn personnel and vehicle operators at safe standoff distances.”

And unlike its predecessors, the OIS can automatically regulate dazzling energy – based on distance from the target and other factors – to limit collateral damage.

The OIS program calls for a system weighing < 10 ounces and rugged enough to withstand the recoil of at least 5,000 rounds, survive a five-foot drop onto hard-packed earth, and submersion in salt water for two hours down to 65 feet. It should also be readily compatible with existing small arms like the M4, M16A4, or M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, and troops should have no trouble affixing it with an attachable hand grip.

The system is nearing Milestone C approval – meaning it’s about to enter the Production and Deployment (PD) Phase – and acquisition efforts should see 1,848 dazzlers fielded as part of Escalation of Force Mission Module Kits.

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