The Russian Navy is claiming to have outfitted warships with a high tech weapon capable of making enemy soldiers go temporarily blind, become disoriented, and nauseous. Russian media reports that two Northern Fleet frigates have been fitted with the new "non-lethal dazzler-type weapon, the 5P-42 Filin (eagle-owl)" — as it's been described by the manufacturer — a "non-lethal visual-optical inference device" purportedly capable of preventing enemies from properly aiming their own weapons.
The cutting edge weapon produced by Ruselectronics has elsewhere been described as emitting an oscillating beam of high-intensity light which can not only suppress enemy targeting abilities, but disrupt night vision tech and laser target sensors.
But the most extreme and perhaps dubious claim is that it can induce hallucinations when aimed toward enemy encampments or vessels.
A recent battlefield simulation test of the Filin, as it's called for short, was considered successful as Russian media relates:
During testing, volunteers used assault rifles, sniper rifles, and machine guns to shoot targets placed up to 2km away and protected by the device. They all had trouble aiming because they “couldn’t see the target.”
Forty-five percent of the volunteers reported feeling dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented. Twenty percent are said to have experienced hallucinations, described as “a ball of light moving in front of [our] eyes.” The company didn’t specify how many people participated in the tests.
While the weapon was first unveiled in December and marketed primarily to law enforcement, the state-of-the-art frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov are now reportedly armed with them.
Russian state sources claim the weapon has a range of up to 5 kilometers, making its reach significant in that the source could be easily concealed from such a distance; however, the Filin has not been observed in action or tested by any outside or international source.
There currently exist some level of minimal international restrictions on use of blinding weapons on the battlefield, but internationally agreed upon protocols have struggled to keep up with the rapidly advancing defense tech industry.
According to the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, for example, armies are prohibited from deploying weapons which cause permanent blindness, something the makers of the Filin say it doesn't do, but could produce temporary blindness. As Business Insider concludes: "As Russia's weapon reportedly only causes temporary blindness, there would be no legislative restrictions on its use, not that legal issues may be of any real concern."
Interestingly, US officials last year the accused Russia of conducting a clandestine "sonic attack" using what would be a similar device to cause mysterious brain injuries and nausea in embassy personnel stationed in Cuba. But scientists later said the strange sound in the Havana embassy area possibly making diplomatic staff ill was most likely the result of crickets.