To convince skeptics and naysayers the Chinese company that was the focus of international headlines after unveiling its “laser AK-47” that it claimed can set fire to a target from nearly a kilometer away has released a video of the weapon being tested as proof of its capability.
As we highlighted, among the first to call bullshit on the claims published in a South China Morning Post report detailing the ZKZM-500 produced by the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences was a US military and veteran website.
After all, the original report touted the weapon could “burn through clothes in a split second… If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire. The pain will be beyond endurance,” according to a Chinese weapons expert cited.
However the military commentary site Task and Purpose wrote: “it is hard to believe that the Chinese engineered a powerful-enough directed energy beam that can torch enemies from a half-mile away without being refracted by environmental factors like dust or fog — all with ‘a rechargeable lithium battery pack similar to those found in smartphones.'”
Indeed much of the skepticism focused on what would constitute an unprecedented and almost unbelievable leap in laser power source technology, as TechCrunch noted, “the power required to set a person aflame instantly from half a mile away is truly huge. Let’s just do a little napkin math here.”
The article says that the gun is powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the same in principle as those in your phone (though no doubt bigger). And it is said to be capable of a thousand two-second shots, amounting to two thousand seconds, or about half an hour total. A single laser “shot” of the magnitude tested by airborne and vehicle systems is on the order of tens of kilowatts, and those have trouble causing serious damage, which is why they’ve been all but abandoned by those developing them.
Let’s just pretend they work for a second, at those power levels — they use chemical batteries to power them, since they need to be emptied far faster than lithium ion batteries will safely discharge. But let’s say even then that we could use lithium ion batteries. The Tesla Powerwall is a useful comparator: it provides a few kilowatts of power and stores a few kilowatt-hours. And… it weighs more than 200 pounds.
“There’s just no way that a laser powered by a lithium-ion battery that a person could carry would be capable of producing the kind of heat described at point-blank range, let alone at 800 metres,” TechCrunch concluded.
But a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report featuring the new test video says “in response” to the critics “the company developing the weapon, ZKZM Laser, released footage of the gun being tested on a rooftop in Xian, Shaanxi province, in May.”
Though the company says the filmed test was not conducted at maximum range, citing “safety reasons, to avoid anyone accidentally walking into the beam” — as the beam is invisible and the device without sound, various objects are shown igniting, including clothing and even a tire.