The Russian Navy is installing new non-lethal weapons on several new frigates. The “visual optical interference” weapons are designed to disorient those looking at them, causing hallucinations, nausea, and dizziness. The weapons are also designed to interfere with aiming devices and some weapons. The technology dates back to work done before World War II and, although clever, is not considered all that reliable as a weapon.
According to the Russian Navy has installed Ruselectronics 5P-42 Filin visual-optical interference stations on frigates of the and the Project 22350–class frigates currently under construction. Filin is designed to work at twilight and night time, creating fast pulses of bright light that dazzle and disorient onlookers. The blinking lights not only create adverse physical sensations, but they also cause approximately twenty percent of viewers to hallucinate balls of light.
says about Filin:
Volunteers who experienced the impact of "Filin" noted the impossibility of conducting aimed fire from small arms on concealed targets when placed at a distance of two kilometers from the shooters' positions due to the lack of visibility of the target. At the same time, every fifth volunteer felt the hallucinogenic effect, and about half of the testers noted signs of disorientation in space, as well as nausea and dizziness.
Filin can also allegedly suppress military electronics that operate in the optical spectrum, including infrared laser rangefinders, night-vision goggles, and anti-tank missile launchers at ranges of up to five kilometers (3.1 miles).
The tech behind Filin is not new. In the early years of World War II, the British and U.S. armies built several battalions of top-secret tanks known as CDL—or . CDLs were older, aging tanks fitted with searchlights that flickered their light beams up to six times a second. This pulse rate induced “dizziness, loss of balance, and the infamous nausea” in exercises in which CDL tanks supported an attack and made it difficult to target a vehicle equipped with the lights. U.S. CDL tanks languished for much of the war, used only briefly during combat in May 1945.
Although Russian state media is often a purveyor of propaganda, this appears to be a real development. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see why Russia thinks Filin is worth the cost. For ship-to-ship warfare Filin is not really all that useful, although it could be useful for warding off helicopters and small-boat crews, and perhaps even drone swarms. A Russian frigate cruising close to shore could be targeted by anti-tank missiles, but Filin might only be useful against older missiles like the American TOW-II, which requires the missile operator to place crosshairs on his target through a scope or viewscreen. Will other navies follow suit? Only time will tell.