Letter Re: Laser Protective Goggles

When I was a young Marine in the first gulf war I heard that it was quite common for tank crews to blind the enemy with the tanks laser. Do you know of any protective glasses/goggles that would prevent retina damage from lasers? Thanks, – Keith

JWR Replies: The problem is that you need a separate filter for each ranges of wavelengths (measured in nanometers). By the time that you stack enough filters to stop all of the non-eye safe laser threats, you end up with something about as opaque as welder’s goggles. I guess this explains why the Stormtroopers in Star Wars were such bad shots. 😉

There may be some practical countermeasures. My best guess is that it would be Alexandrite lasers that would be used for intentional blinding, as I described in “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse”. Do a web search on “Dazer and Stingray.” You will find some scary stuff. I discussed both eye safe and non-eye safe lasers in a series of articles that I wrote when I was a full time associate editor for Defense Electronics magazine, back in the late 1980s. These articles concerned the U.S. Army’s now defunct Dazer (hand held) and Stingray (tactical vehicle and aircraft-mounted) laser weapon programs. Both had been intended to counter enemy EO sensors, but were unfortunately indiscriminate in damaging the Mark I human eyeball. (They used high power Alexandrite lasers, which have a wavelength that is not eye safe.) As I recall, the Dazer program was cancelled around 1992, and the larger Stingray system development was de-funded in 1996, right around the time of ratification of the UN Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. (Main reference: Rawles, James W. “Directed Energy Weapons: Battlefield Beams.” Defense Electronics, August 1989. v. 21, no. 8, p. 47-54.) If you buy a pair of goggles or sunglasses designed to protect against Alexandrite lasers (+/- 755 nanometers), they would also have some effectiveness against lasers in adjacent wavelengths.