The United Kingdom deployed a laser weapon during its 1982 war with Argentina designed to "dazzle" enemy pilots who were attacking British warships, according to secret documents released Wednesday.
Among the confidential British government reports that the National Archive released on Wednesday was a letter dating from January 1983 that said "never before used" laser weapons had been deployed during the already-concluded war that had been developed quickly and secretly.
The letter to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was classified as "top secret" and was signed by Britain's then-defense minister, Michael Heseltine,
"We developed and deployed with very great urgency a naval laser weapon, designed to dazzle low-flying Argentine pilots attacking ships, to the task force in the South Atlantic. This weapon was not used in action and knowledge of it has been kept to a very restricted level," wrote the newly-appointed Heseltine to the premier.
Heseltine also referred to the British programs to develop and carry out research on the laser weapons systems known as "Raker" and "Shingle," that, according to the released documents, were "proceeding at high priority."
He also said that the Soviet Union could conceivably deploy laser weapons by the mid-1980s although it was not clear whether having such weapons would truly be useful.
In late 1979, British interests were focused on using medium-power lasers against relatively softer targets such as eyes, optic and electro-optic sensors.
The 74-day Falklands War, which was fought to determine sovereignty over the archipelago, broke out after Argentine troops occupied the islands and led to the deaths of 255 British troops and about 650 Argentines before Britain finally defeated the South American nation. EFE