CHINA has developed a powerful new laser assault rifle that can obliterate a target from nearly a kilometre away, researchers claim.

According to Chinese researchers, the ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle can “instantly carbonise” human skin and tissues, set a person on fire and make them feel “pain beyond endurance”.

A laser weapons scientist said the device was able to “burn through clothes in a split second … If the fabric is flammable, the whole person will be set on fire”, the South China Morning Post reports.

The weapon weighs three kilos, about the same as an AK-47, and has a range of 800 metres that can be mounted on vehicles.

The report compares the weapon to something out of Star Wars, describing a silent invisible beam of energy powerful enough to pass through windows.

The laser is currently classified as “nonlethal”, but its sniper-like range could prove its greatest asset, with the scientists who worked on it already claiming it’s ready for mass production due to its small size. Each weapon would be produced at a cost of 100,000 yuan ($AU20,405).

The researchers said its invisible frequency and the fact that it produces no sound gives the advantage of no one knowing where the attack came from.

“It will look like an accident,” the researchers said.

The weapon is said to be powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, and can fire over 1000 shots per charge, lasting no more than two seconds each.

China has developed a powerful new laser assault rifle, researchers claim.Source:Supplied