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Pentagon Says Woman Did Not Suffer Permanent Eye Damage

October 7, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Air Force woman exposed to what the Pentagon believes was a Soviet laser last week did not suffer permanent eye damage, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

The Air Force, which has not made her name public, said she was the co- pilot of a WC-135 weather and surveillance plane over the Pacific Ocean last week when Soviets conducted two flight tests of a new ballistic missile.

The United States protested those tests because the Soviets used a target area that extended within 500 miles of Hawaii.

Col. David J. Shea, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Air Force woman underwent new medical tests earlier this week and doctors found ″no evidence of damage.″

″The pilot is not experiencing any after-effects,″ he added. ″But we’ll continue to monitor her condition periodically.″

According to the Pentagon, two American aircraft - the WC-135 and a Navy P- 3 surveillance plane - were illuminated by an ″intense light″ from a Soviet intelligence ship operating in the target zone.

The light ″disturbed the (Air Force) co-pilot’s vision for 10 minutes,″ the Pentagon said.

″Based on the information available, and the fact that the Soviets have in the past used laser devices to irradiate Western patrol aircraft, we believe these emissions were from a laser,″ it said.

Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., who disclosed the incident Friday, said he considered use of the laser a violation of the Soviet Union’s treaty commitment not to interfere with ″national technical means″ - the aircraft, satellites and other devices used by the superpowers to monitor each other’s military activities.

As such, he said, it was ″the sort of last straw in an incident involving a series of provocative acts which started with the aiming of ICBMs at the sovereign territory of the United States.″

The Defense Department, in the 1987 edition of Soviet Military Power, said that ″recent Soviet irradiation of Free World manned surveillance aircraft and ships could have caused serious eye damage to observers.″

In the booklet was a picture of an ″electro-optic sensor laser device″ aboard a Soviet destroyer that the Pentagon said ″has been used to irradiate Western patrol aircraft.″

A senior Defense Department official said at the time the Pentagon had received reports of pilots being temporarily blinded by such laser beams.

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