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China has developed a Star Wars-style laser weapon that researchers say can set fire to targets half a mile away.
The South China Morning Post reports that the Chinese military have developed a laser assault rifle that can fire through windows and cause 'instant carbonisation' of human skin and muscle tissue.
"The pain will be beyond endurance," said one of the developers of the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle, which has been made at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, located in Shaanxi Province in northwestern China.
It would be able to 'burn through clothes in a split second'.
"If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire," they added.
"Nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident," added a second researcher on the project.
The laser gun weighs around three kilograms, roughly the same as the standard AK-47 assault rifle and will have an operational range of around half a mile, or 800m.
The SCMP reports that it will be ready for mass production soon and will likely first see deployment as part of China's anti-terrorism forces and the China Armed Police.
It is thought to be of particular use in hostage situations, where it could be used surgically and through windows, as well as in covert operations, where it could be used to heat object from far away and start fires, such as by igniting fuel tanks.
The laser is invisible, so it would be impossible to see where the initial spark came from.
The gun is to be powered by batteries made of lithium, almost identical to those seen in smartphones.
"This is no longer science fiction. They are already a fact of life," said Wang Zhimin, associate researcher at the Research Centre for Laser Physics and Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
The Chinese government has ranked the new laser gun as a 'non-lethal weapon' as it is more likely to injure a target than to kill them outright.
It would initially burn a target, but if the laser was held for long enough, it would begin to cut through their skin like a surgical knife.
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