Laser-pointer attacks are a serious and growing problem for US military pilots in the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Pentagon is acknowledging for the first time just how much of a problem the simple devices have caused aircrews, predominantly in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where the bulk of some 350 laser-related incidents have occurred in the last seven months alone. That nearly matches the roughly 400 reported laser-beam attacks in 2017. By this year's end, the tally should at least equal the peak of 700 recorded attacks in 2015. The problem is that pointers give users an affordable and effective way to distract pilots, putting their lives at risk.
While the WSJ report is the first public disclosure by US officials of laser-attack numbers, they've made the news before. Earlier this year, the Pentagon said a formal complaint was issued to China over the use of lasers near a US military base in Djibouti. Those lasers were directed at aircraft and resulted in minor injuries to two American pilots. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the US was confident that Chinese nationals from a nearby Chinese base were responsible for the laser attacks, the AP reported. Per the Hill, the phenomenon is still more commonly seen by commercial pilots, who the FAA says reported 2,800 laser-related incidents between January 2018 and June 2018.
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