While addressing the Eastern Economic Forum earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia is working on weapons based on new physical principles that will ensure the security of any country in the near historical perspective.
So now Russia is testing its cutting-edge laser weapons in Ukraine. What is known about these arms based on new physical principles?
The Russian president did not elaborate what models of innovative arms he meant, Russian military observers suggested Putin’s remark is more likely a reference to lasers and other high-energy, physics-based weapons.
Indeed, on March 1, 2018, Putin mentioned Russia’s laser weapon for air defense and anti-satellite warfare, the Peresvet, during his address to the Federal Assembly.
The Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty in the Russian Armed Forces in December 2018.
By February 2019, the Russian president announced the laser installations had confirmed their unique characteristics along with the Kinzhal hyper-sonic missiles.
In May 2022, another Russian laser weapon, the Zadira (“Bully” or “Badass”) was said to be deployed during the Ukraine conflict to shoot down Ukrainian drones.
The Zadira became known to the public during the international military-technical forum ARMY-2017.
At that time, the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Russian Federal Nuclear Center inked a contract to carry out development work (R&D) on so-called Zadira-16.
While information and technical characteristics of Russia’s laser weapons are shrouded in secrecy, it is known the Peresvet is a strategic laser platform designed to disable enemy spacecraft at altitudes up to 1,500 kilometers (km).
Still, a laser with enough power to blind satellites should also be capable of hitting atmospheric aircraft, as per international military observers.
Officials believe it can also burn out the equipment of reconnaissance aircraft and drones, and with some modifications, even physically destroy them at close range.
Experts have additionally indicated the Peresvet is used to camouflage the launch positions of the RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In December 2020, Colonel General Sergei Karakaev, the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, told the Russian press the Peresvet had already been tested to cover mobile ground systems on their combat patrol routes.
The laser weapon doesn’t allow reconnaissance satellites to determine the exact coordinates of Russia’s mobile ballistic missile systems on combat duty.
While the Peresvet blinds the enemy’s systems, the Zadira burns them down.
The weapon can hit an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at a distance of up to 5 km. During testing, a drone flying 5 km away was struck by the Zadira and burned out within five seconds.
The Zadira could help combat enemy drones and not waste expensive missiles of Russia short-to-medium range air defense systems.
Even though laser weapons are a technologically complex product, the cost of their shot is significantly lower than that from an anti-aircraft missile system (SAM). Moreover, the laser beam reaches the target almost instantly and cannot be intercepted.
In addition to the Zadira and the Peresvet, the Russian military also mentioned the Luchezar project in their bulletins.
The promising small-sized mobile laser system is designed to neutralize reconnaissance devices containing CCD matrices by effectively damaging them.
A specific feature of this laser system is its lens, which allows it to destroy surveillance equipment, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Meanwhile, in late August, an informed source told Sputnik that Russia conducted successful field tests of a laser gun, during which it destroyed several drones of various types.
Per the source, the Russian laser gun burned the aerodynamic surfaces of the UAV’s or burned their body along with on-board equipment. The advantages of laser weapons have been explored by many foreign nations.
Such developments have been carried out in the USA. Turkiye has now entered the testing stage, and Great Britain is testing its [laser weapons] too. Israel has a laser system which is part of the Iron Dome.
But, judging by reports, the Israeli combat laser has never been used effectively against missiles.
The Pentagon is spending roughly $1 billion a year to develop laser weapons – also known as “directed energy” weapons, according to the US Government Accountability Office.
It was reported in January 2022 that the first set of Stryker combat vehicles equipped with 50-kilowatt laser weapons would undergo field tests after being dispatched to a unit of Army soldiers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Israel’s laser weapon is called “Magen Or” (Iron Beam) and regarded as the next step up in the nation’s self-defense.
According to Israel-based arms producer Rafael, the Iron Beam – which will complement Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system – is designed to neutralize unmanned aerial systems, rockets, artillery and mortar rounds by using a 100-kilowatt or more directed energy weapon.
According to the press, Israelis may help the US to finalize its costly laser project. Reportedly, the Israel-based company inked an agreement with Lockheed Martin in December to jointly develop a laser system based on Iron Beam for use in the USA.
Laser weapons allow you to hit a target almost instantly, at long range, and do it silently.
At the same time, the laser beam is quite cheap in terms of its cost, the expert noted, adding that this ratio will work when the technology is widely used. Per Knutov, presently, the military laser technology is still in its initial stages.
However, a real breakthrough will happen when a laser beam’s power exceeds one megawatt, according to Knutov, who stressed that such a laser weapon would be akin to artillery shells.
Given that most major powers have joined the laser weapons race, one might ask whether there is an antidote against deadly laser beams. According to Knutov, laser weapons have already posed a challenge to the military.
However, engineers are likely to step forward and propose solutions for each case to mitigate or neutralize the disastrous consequences, according to the expert.
Meanwhile, equipping aircraft with combat lasers to intercept drones and missiles or destroying armored vehicles will become a reality quite soon, the expert projected.
He noted that one of the requirements for the sixth-generation aircraft is an onboard power plant, which must be designed to generate enough energy for a combat laser weapon intended to be mounted on war planes.
That is, it is already envisaged that sixth-generation aircraft will have combat lasers on board.
Sputnik / Russian Defense Ministry / ABC Flash Point News 2023.