BLINDING

Laser Attacks on U.S. Pilots Rising Sharply in Middle East

Hostile forces are targeting U.S. pilots with laser pointers at an increasing rate, putting aircrews at risk over the Middle East and the South China Sea. The number of laser incidents so far this year is on track to top the roughly 600 incidents reported in 2016 and match 2015, when there were a total of about 700 incidents in the Middle East. The figures were obtained by The Wall Street Journal. American pilots operating in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan experienced most of the more than 350 laser incidents reported over the last seven months—almost as many as took place during the whole of 2017. The Pentagon this year acknowledged attacks around an American base in Djibouti in east Africa, where laser beams appeared to come from a nearby Chinese base. A small number of incidents also took place in the East China Sea, where U.S. pilots were hit by laser beams that may have come from Chinese personnel or from fishermen operating in the area. China denied any involvement.