Feeds

Russia's Cold War raygun air fleet back in operation - reports

Monster laser-planes ready to blind US satellites?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Reports suggest that Russia has re-started work on a Cold War project intended to produce a laser cannon mounted on an enormous military transport aircraft in the style of the USA's Airborne Laser Testbed 747.

The Beriev A-60 laser aircraft in flight

Ha ha, imperialists - it is not only you who can build expensive crazy rayguns in giant aeroplanes!

Erratic Muscovite journal Pravda reports the development, saying that the Russian military raygun programme was started in 1980 but then mothballed in the '90s when funds became tight. Now, however, it is said to have been restarted.

Though Pravda doesn't specify the name of the programme, it does state that the weapon system is carried aboard a modified Ilyushin-76 heavy transport: this suggests that the report refers to the Beriev A-60 programme of the 1980s and 90s. The A-60 supposedly mounted a one-megawatt gas laser.

Normally a Pravda report wouldn't carry much weight, but photos apparently taken earlier this year seem to show that at least one A-60 is flying again after 15 years in mothballs. There was also an Interfax report to the same effect earlier last month.

Pravda seems unsure whether the reanimated A-60 is intended primarily for blinding long-range enemy sensors - for instance those on satellites or reconnaissance aircraft - or for use along the same lines as the USA's formerly planned Airborne Laser (ABL) fleet. The ABL was intended to cruise near hostile missile fields and beam enemy ICBMs out of existence during their boost phase, as they rocketed up through the atmosphere full of explosive fuel.

That might have been practical in the case of US laser-jumbos patrolling off the North Korean coast, but even the US air force might struggle to protect ABLs on station within range of Iranian silos - far less those of Russia. In any event, the Obama administration has decided it doesn't want an ABL fleet and has downgraded the project into a research effort - hence the prototype raygun-jumbo is now known as the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB). It is thought to pack multi-megawatt punch, several times more powerful than the A-60s.

Similar criticisms on usefulness would apply to any nuke-nobbling use of Russia's renascent rayguncraft.

"You must understand that we will have to deliver this laser through the airspace of the United States," Russian defence journo Igor Korotchenko tells Pravda.

"Clearly, all our aircrafts will be shot down.”

It seems relatively unlikely that the Russian military has actually revived the A-60 for the purpose of swatting down boosting US missiles - the idea that it might instead blind satellites or spy planes is much more credible. Particularly in the case of satellites, having the laser high above most of the atmosphere would make it much more effective.

Pravda also hints at the possibility that the A-60 is flying again to enable Russian ICBM designers to harden their rockets against laser weapons: though if so they would seem to be wasting their time, given that the US has decided not to deploy such things. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.