A Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon was lased by a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) vessel.
On Feb. 17, 2022, an RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was illuminated by a laser from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy warship. The lasing was carried out by a Luyang-class guided missile destroyer at 12.35AM LT, Australia’s Defence Department announced.
The Chinese vessel was in company with another PLA-N ship, a Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock, as they were sailing east through Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, in the Arafura Sea, between the Northern Territory and Papua, at the time of the incident. Both ships have since transited through the Torres Strait and are heading into the Coral Sea.
While transit through Australia’s EEZ is not prohibited, illumination of a surveillance aircraft with lasers (and, in particular, with military-grade ones) is extremely dangerous and can have serious consequences.
According to those who have suffered a “high light intoxication” on one eye, the laser appears in the cockpit as a flash of a camera in a pitch black car at night.
Interfering with a flying aircraft in the US can lead to a maximum of 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and pay a 250K USD fine.
The use of the military-grade laser against an Australian military aircraft by a PLAN vessel is unprecedented, but the Chinese military has pointed lasers to target foreign military aircraft before. In 2018, U.S. aircraft operating from Djibouti, were reportedly targeted by lasers multiple times; in one such episodes, two U.S. pilots flying a C-130 were slightly injured by Chinese lasers.
According to the Australian media, in December 2019 hand-held lasers were used by Chinese maritime militia against Australian military helicopters operating in the South China Sea.
The RAAF operates a fleet of 14 P-8A Poseidon. Based on the Boeing B737-800 and modified to incorporate the latest maritime surveillance and attack capabilities, the P-8 is used to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Maritime Surveillance and Search and Rescue missions.
The Australian Poseidon fleet is operated by Royal Australian Air Force No. 11 and No. 292 Squadrons based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, under the command of Number 92 Wing (as part of Surveillance and Response Group).