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Secret files: Britain deployed laser weapon to Falklands to 'dazzle' Argentine pilots

One of the British Government's previously hidden files, released as 20-year rule transition begins

Britain deployed a laser weapon to the Falklands which was designed to "dazzle" Argentine pilots during battle, secret government papers disclose today.

Despite being hurriedly and quietly developed, the weapon was never used in action, according to a 1983 document released by the National Archives.

Its existence is disclosed in a January 1983 letter, marked "Top Secret and UK Eyes A," from the then newly-appointed defence secretary Michael Heseltine to prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Heseltine wrote: "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."

His briefing on military capabilities also touches on the laser weapon research and development programmes called Raker and Shingle which were "proceeding at high priority," according to the papers.

He claims the Soviet Union could field laser weapons by the mid-1980s but it was uncertain whether owning such offensive laser weapons was useful.

By the end of 1979 British interests were in using medium power laser directed against relatively softer targets such as eyes, optic and electro-optic sensors.

His note claims "the Russians could be in a position to field such weapons by the mid-1980s (in fact, the Russians may already have deployed a laser weapon on the cruiser Kirov)".

British researchers concentrated on countermeasures. Programmes that were under way included Raker, which aimed to think up every possible way of protecting sensors. There was also the development programme known as Shingle which sought to capitalise on any practical solutions arising out of the Raker work.

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