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Corps to field new lighter, smaller warning lasers

Aug. 25, 2014 - 06:55PM   |  
About 1,800 new laser dazzlers are expected to be fielded as the Marine Corps revises its array of non-lethal weapons. The new dazzler, called the Ocular Interruption System, will replace older versions like this one, shown attached to a machine gun.
About 1,800 new laser dazzlers are expected to be fielded as the Marine Corps revises its array of non-lethal weapons. The new dazzler, called the Ocular Interruption System, will replace older versions like this one, shown attached to a machine gun. (Wikimedia Commons)
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The Marine Corps has awarded a multimillion dollar contract to two companies for the production of the latest addition to its suite of non-lethal weapons — laser dazzlers called the Ocular Interruption System.

The Corps should receive the first no later than October as part of its initial order on a $49 million, five-year contract awarded to Alfalight Inc., based in Wisconsin, and B.E. Meyer & Co., Inc., based in Washington state.

The eye-safe laser, which was initially delayed by Defense Department budget cuts, will give Marines an improved device to warn or incapacitate people approaching a controlled area, like a checkpoint. The laser works at effective ranges of about 11 to 547 yards.

“The Ocular Interruption (OI) device shall be a rugged, light-weight, visible hail and warning system employed as a clip-on attachment to a weapon system or in a standalone, hand-held configuration,” according to performance specifications for the device published on FedBizOpps.gov. “The OI device shall use a green laser to produce warn and suppression levels of glare in targeted personnel.”

That means the lasers will be capable of hailing or temporarily blinding people. But it will also incorporate an automatic power-limiting system to prevent eye injury at close ranges.

In late 2012, Brig. Gen. William Mullen, director of the Capabilities Development Directorate at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, identified the lasers as a valuable tool, but said there was no definite fielding timeline and the device was threatened if budget cuts put it on the chopping block. Now that a contract has been awarded, however, it means the lasers are on their way to the fleet.

The acquisition effort should ultimately see 1,848 dazzlers fielded as part of Escalation of Force Mission Module Kits, according to Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman at Quantico.

“These kits are issued to each Marine expeditionary force and task organized/issued to Marine Corps units as missions require,” Hamby told Marine Corps Times.

The kits also include:

■ The SQU.ID, a hands-free language translation device.

■ Riot control gear, such as face masks, shin shields and batons.

■ Restraints, such as body cuffs, hand ties and vehicle-halting devices that employ nets and road spikes.

■ Speakers with tripods for addressing large crowds.

■ Metal detectors.

■ Forensics tools, such as a chemical spray that can detect explosive residue.

The Ocular Interruption System is an improvement to laser dazzlers fielded beginning in 2005 when urgent needs statements out of Iraq called for a better way to warn approaching people and vehicles, to protect Marines without lethal force.

The new devices will replace the services LA9/P, for long-distance hail and warning, and Glare MOUT, a smaller weapons-mounted system.

The new systems should weigh less than 10 ounces. Additionally, it should be usable with an attachable hand grip, or mounted to a weapon in 10 seconds or less using locking throw levers or threaded locking nuts. It should also not interfere with normal weapon operation. At the very least, it will be compatible with the M4, M16A4 or M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

The device should also be rugged, standing up to the recoil of at least 5,000 rounds, and survive a drop onto hard-packed earth from about 5 feet up. It should also function after spending two hours submerged in saltwater up to about 65 feet.

The procurement is still set for a competitive down-select and pending Milestone C approval, meaning after the first delivery of devices, the better among the two companies will be selected for follow-on orders. Once the dazzlers receive Milestone C approval, they will enter final fielding.

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