FBI Probes Laser Beam Directed at Cockpit
15mi from Cleveland Hopkins
‘It was in there for several seconds like (the plane) was being tracked,’ FBI agent Robert Hawk said.
The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville Heights.
Hawk said the laser had to have been fairly sophisticated to track a plane traveling at that altitude. Authorities had no other leads, and are investigating whether the incident was a prank or if there was a more sinister motive.
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One such laser weapon is the Chinese-produced ZM-87 laser blinder which is designed to blind optics such as night vision equipment and the human eye. It has been displayed at defence exhibitions in Manila and Abu Dhabi.
The FBI also noted that that Japanese terrorist cult Aum Shinrikyo, which gained infamy for its 1995 Sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway, had experimented with the use of lasers as weapons.
Cult members apparently obtained laser design information from Russian institutes they visited and built a laser weapon mounted on a truck. They had planned to use the laser against Tokyo policemen but the plan failed when the laser malfunctioned during the testing stage.
The FBI states that terrorists with access to substantial financial resources are more likely to obtain laser hardware from commercial off-the-shelf industrial sources rather than military sources.
“These devices are used in medical, industrial and educational facilities and are more susceptible to theft. The commercial off-the-shelf lasers are not designed for use as weapons, but they can be easily modified for such purposes.