China Reportedly Using Lasers to Interfere With U.S. Flights in Djibouti

The U.S. Air Force has issued a warning to its pilots in Djibouti regarding Chinese laser weapons being used at a nearby base.

The Chinese facility is Beijing’s first overseas military base, and sits just a few miles to the north of the American Camp Lemonnier at Djibouti’s Ambouli International Airport. The U.S. military says Chinese troops are using high-powered lasers to interfere with U.S. flights in the area, the South China Morning Post reported.

The military issued a notice to its pilots, later published by the Federal Aviation Administration, urging them to “use extreme caution when transiting near” the Chinese base, citing the use of a “high-power laser” on multiple occasions.

Camp Lemonnier is the only permanent American base in Africa and is home to around 4,000 troops. Opened in 2001, the installation has become a vital staging point for U.S. counter-terrorism operations, especially as a regional hub for American drone missions launched from a network of other nearby bases. Initially an 88-acre base, an agreement was signed with the Djibouti government in 2006 to expand the facility to 500 acres.

Chinese military observers told the Post that China’s laser use may be trying to scare off birds near its airfield or disrupting spy drones flying above, rather than targeting foreign pilots. Analyst Zhou Chenming told the newspaper, “The Chinese and U.S. bases in Djibouti are really close, so one could disturb the other if the two sides don’t have a proper communication mechanism.”

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SOURCE: Newsweek, David Brennan