Feeds

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

Monster laser-planes ready to blind US satellites?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.