SA to add to non-lethal anti-pirate arsenal


The South African Navy has issued a request for quotation (RFQ) to Lasersec Systems AG of Zurich to acquire a Sealase marine laser threat deterrent system. If acquired, the system will join a a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) acquired from LRAD Corporation of San Diego in the US at a cost of R202 778.63 in September last year.

The Lasersec Systems SeaLase is a diode-pumped solid-state laser that operates at 532nm in the visible region of the light spectrum. It is reported to have a range of four kilometres. At a range of one kilometre, anyone looking up the 10m-wide beam develops acute nausea and can temporarily no longer see – the weapon at that range having the same intensity as looking into the sun.

The RFQ was issued by arms acquisition agency Armscor yesterday with a return date of July 8.

Lasersec CEO Scott Buchter in October 2009 told CNN the loss of eyesight was temporary and that no permanent damage is inflicted. Buchter launched the US$104 000 multi-coloured laser system as a maritime security solution at the 2009 Monaco Yacht Show. The newscaster said systems like SeaLase have become increasingly popular with superyacht owners looking to protect multi-million dollar yachts on the open seas. Because law regarding the use of deadly force on ships is ambiguous in some countries and the transport of guns is illegal in most international waters, yacht crews favour non-lethal weapons for security.

In addition to countering pirates, such dazzle devices can be used to protect ships in and near port as well as in narrow seaways. Applications on land can include crowd control – and US forces have used it in this capacity in Iraq, as well as for base and force protection, for example to guard troops or police deployed at roadblocks or bring suspect vehicles to a halt.

Other such weapons are LRAD, a long-range acoustic device that temporarily deafens targets and the US$450 000 “SeaOwl” tracking system, which combines radar and infrared or thermal cameras to detect incoming threats as far as five kilometers away.

LRAD Corporation advises that their device, as apparently deployed aboard the frigate SAS Mendi earlier this year, “is a critical part of a layered defence strategy. It is highly effective in giving crew members time to determine the intent of unidentified vessels that do not respond to radio calls. Vessels at up to 3000 meters can be hailed and warned using LRAD’s powerful directed communication system and multiple language capability, guaranteeing that warning messages are clearly heard and understood,” a spokesman said in a post on defenceWeb earlier this year. “If pirates continue their approach, LRAD’s warning tones can provide an annoying and deterring effect that has proven successful in fending off attackers on multiple occasions… Recently, the Korean Navy successfully used LRAD during their rescue of the Samho Jewelry 800 miles off the coast of Somalia.”

Acquisition of a sealase marine laser threat deterrent system

ERES/2011/93 9 Jun 2011 8 Jul 2011 Lasersec Systems AG, Zurich

Acquisition of long range acoustic device for evaluaion

ERES/2010/125 16 Sep 2010 R202 778,63 LRAD Corporation, San Diego