Country Risk

US warns pilots of laser attacks in Djibouti

27 April 2018
China's base in Djibouti was officially opened on 1 August 2017. Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • A US NOTAM has warned pilots of multiple laser attacks near the Chinese base in Djibouti
  • China is known to have produced laser dazzlers before signing the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.

The US military has released a notice to airmen (NOTAM) warning aircraft about “unauthorised laser activity” in Djibouti.

“There have been multiple lazing events involving a high-power laser in the vicinity of N1135.70 E04303.14. Use extreme caution when transiting near this area,” the NOTAM said.

Those co-ordinates are for a location in the sea 750 m from China’s new military base in Djibouti.

The NOTAM was posted on the Federal Aviation Administration website on 14 April with an end date of 14 June.

Multiple intelligence sources report that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is suspected of operating a high-power lasing weapon at the base or on a ship offshore.

The use of lasers to temporarily blind pilots has been increasing over the years and dates back to the Cold War when US Navy pilots were periodically attacked by lasers emanating from Soviet naval vessels and spy trawlers.

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