How does China’s claimed handheld laser rifle compare to the US and to reality?

China has created the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle is classified as being “non-lethal” but produces an energy beam that cannot be seen by the naked eye but can pass through windows and cause the “instant carbonization” of human skin and tissues.

It can burn through clothes in a split second and set flammable things on fire. Someones clothes could be sent on fire.

The Big Think believes this is propoganda and the weapon does not exist or is far less powerful.

The US has squad level compact and powerful lasers being produced by Boeing.

In 2015, Boeing announced it had a ten-kilowatt system that weighs 650 pounds (295 kilograms) and would probably be operated by a squad of eight to 12 soldiers or Marines. The Boeing system can be used to acquire, track, and possibly destroy targets at ranges of at least 22 miles.

Able to be assembled in just 15 minutes, LWS is capable of generating an energy beam of up to 10 kilowatts that can, depending on the power level, be used to acquire, track, and identify a target — or even destroy it — at ranges of at least 22 miles. The weapon is designed specifically to track and attack moving aerial targets such as incoming artillery rounds, and low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Setting Up a compact laser weapon ststem at marine squad tactics exercise in Yuma, Arizona. Image Source: USMC.

China laser rifle is supposed to weigh three kilos (6.6lb), about the same as an AK-47, and has a range of 800 meters, or half a mile, and could be mounted on cars, boats and planes.

It is claimed to be capable of a thousand two-second shots in one charge of its lithium-ion battery.

The laser is shooting a visible frequency and it produces absolutely no sound.

It could be used in special operations. It could burn through gas tank and ignite the fuel storage facility in a military airport.

The company is seeking partners to start large-scale production at a cost of 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) a unit.

If the laser weapon in China got rid of some of the Boeing systems electronics for targeting drones and relied on line of sight aiming then the size could be reduced. They could have looked at other ways to make it more compact.

A 10-kilowatt combat laser in the 100-kilogram range seems possible.

If performance was reduced then a 2-kilowatt combat laser in the 10-20 kilogram range could be possible.

Would the 500 stand for 500-watts?

The US has combat lasers on trucks and MRAPs for triggering IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) and downing drones.

Another company, Chengdu Hengan Police Equipment Manufacturing company, supplies Chinese law enforcement agencies, has also released a laser “machine gun” last month. The weapon has a range of 500 meters and it can fire several hundred shots per charge.

Last month, the US government lodged a formal complaint that a “weapons-grade” laser device fired from a Chinese naval base in Djibouti had left two military pilots with minor eye injuries.