Russia has completed the development of new airborne anti-satellite laser weapon which is capable of targeting enemy satellites with a high accuracy laser.
According to reports, Russia has used the knowledge accumulated from the development of Beriev A-60 airborne laser laboratory for the new system.
The next step of the project is to integrate it on an airborne platform. According to some sources, a “fundamentally new” aircraft would be created to carry the laser weapon, and that it would not be based on a modified Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter that was used to create the A-60. A decision on this issue will be made by the Ministry of Defense, reported Sputnik news agency.
Work on the A-60 project was temporarily frozen in 2011, before resuming in 2012. A deep modernization of the system was completed in 2016, with flight testing continuing since then.
The laser weapon based anti-satellite system (ASAT) used on A-60 was designated 1LK222 Sokol Eshelon. In 2009 the plane was involved in a test to illuminate Japanese satellite AJISAI which was at an orbital height of 1,500 km. The test involved seeing if a reflection of the laser off the satellite could be picked up, and wasn’t intended to damage the satellite. The purpose of the laser is to blind the sensors of enemy satellites rather than destroy them.
In 2016, Russian defense R&D concern NPO Almaz announced that they were working on an airborne military laser system designed to suppress enemy air and space-based reconnaissance platforms. The Voronezh-based Chemical Automatics Design Bureau and the Beriev Aircraft Company are also involved in the ‘flying laser’ program.
The Russian A-60 project is comparable with the American airborne laser project that was based on the YAL-1 Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB). ALTB uses a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F.
YAL-1A project was is primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase whereas the Russian project is designed as anti-satellite weapon (ASAT).