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What will be the laser weapon in Russia and in the world

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The truth and myths about the light scalpel

In February 2020, near the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, an American anti-submarine aircraft P-8A Poseidon was illuminated and blinded by a laser from a Chinese destroyer. This incident, some believe, marked the beginning of the open use of laser weapons as an independent system. From that moment on, they started talking about the rapid spread of laser weapon combat systems (LO).

They are developed by many countries – to blind the enemy, to destroy targets, to defend military facilities. The introduction of laser weapons is hindered by its disadvantages: dependence on weather conditions and high energy consumption. In addition, the use of LO near civilian ships or aircraft can be dangerous.

In modern armed conflicts, the LO has a narrow niche. The reason is that the main task has not been solved: to get a laser of such power that it can instantly burn through metal. That is, use the laser as a weapon of destruction. In the meantime, the LO energy has a destructive effect only on optical and optoelectronic systems.

The word "laser" is an English abbreviation: light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Lasers are used to detect and disable surveillance devices, sighting systems, missile homing heads, and to blind pilots of attacking aircraft and helicopters.

The British military planned to deploy a combat laser on ships in 1982 during the Falklands War, but something went wrong. The US military allegedly used the laser in Operation Desert Storm and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. These messages were not confirmed.

The Soviet "Grip»

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union tested and put into production several projects of shipboard laser installations. for the ground forces, more than a dozen ground-based laser systems "stiletto", "sanguine" and "compression"were released. In the missile defense system, a Soviet laser warmed the missile's body so that it would self-destruct. In the late 1980s, the A-60 Sokol-Echelon system was created on the basis of the Il-76 transport. She could fight the satellites.

In the 1990s, work on lasers in Russia was suspended. The creation of new systems began in the mid-noughties. In the 2010s, the Sokol-Echelon project entered a new stage, the A-60 flying laboratory was modernized. In 2016, work began on the mobile laser complex (MLC) - a development of the 1K17 "Compression"theme.

The development of the Russian BLS was officially confirmed at a high state level. On March 1, 2018, Vladimir Putin for the first time publicly demonstrated a video with the use of a combat laser system. the head of state then limited himself to general phrases.

In the 2000s, American companies Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman developed an air-launched ABL anti-missile chemical laser with a capacity of 1 megawatt. The installation was placed in the nose of a modified Boeing 747–400F cargo plane. In 2010, during tests, ABL "shot down" two ballistic missiles – liquid and solid-fuel-on the upper stage of the trajectory. But the military closed the project: the installation and the carrier seemed to them too heavy and oversized for the missile defense system.

The introduction of combat laser systems is stopped by two reasons. The first is the need for powerful electric generators. In the American BLS YAL-1, for example, a laser is a spherical object in the nose of the liner, the rest of the place in the fuselage of the Boeing-747 is occupied by power supply systems. The second reason is the high cost of the laser: complex lenses, heavy artificial rubies. The advantage of BLS is almost infinite ammunition (in the presence of an electric power generator) and the cheapness of the shot.

Unlimited ammo

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US Army used about 12 thousand portable lasers GLARE MOUT Plus. They are attached to the M4, M16 and M27 automatic rifles. The length of the green laser flashes (532 nm) is not chosen by chance: the human eye is most susceptible (even during the day) to the green range. Such lo reduces losses from "friendly" Fire. Laser pointers temporarily blind the enemy, laser flashes aimed at the eyes at a distance of up to 600 m, can deprive the vision for a while, disorientate.

The GLARE LA-9/P device can damage the retina at a distance of up to 4 km at night and 1.5 km during the day. Therefore, it has an automatic power adjustment system. The rangefinder determines the safe distance to the bioobject and adjusts the power to frighten, but not to deprive the vision.

Such lasers are armed with marines, crews of submarines and surface ships. For example, to scare off small boats when they approach military vessels. The GLARE RECOIL laser can blind a pilot at the controls of an airplane.

The disadvantage of American products is the use of mainly one frequency. In addition, they work well only at temperatures from -5 to +50 degrees. and only some can withstand the frost in -20.

According to the TTZ of the military, the combat laser should work effectively when flying at subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds. But testing of the prototype on a US Air Force fighter jet was postponed until 2023. The reason was technical difficulties and a pandemic.

Generally speaking, promising fighters are planned to be equipped with three types of lasers. Low-power (up to a kilowatt) for target illumination, guidance, and counteraction to enemy surveillance systems. Medium power (several tens of kilowatts) - for self-defense of the aircraft from missiles. A high-power laser for advanced sixth-generation fighters will be able to shoot down other aircraft and hit ground targets. It will be placed in small suspended containers.

The main advantage of laser weapons, the Americans consider unlimited ammunition: the radiating installation can shoot until it ceases to receive energy from the power source.

The American company General Atomics has successfully tested a laser satellite communication system for the MQ-9 Reaper attack unmanned aerial vehicle. Laser systems of space communication will significantly increase the speed of information transfer from Earth to orbit and back. Such systems will complicate the interception of sent data, especially when transmitting information from an aircraft to a satellite. Equipped with the system, the device will be able to act as a repeater of signals for ground units.

"true weapon" in american

The power of the LO can be increased to, for example, burn through the walls of fuel tanks on cars and ignite fuel. High-energy laser weapons systems are manufactured by Raytheon. Such a laser with a multispectral guidance system is designed to destroy primarily drones. The laser system installed on the all-terrain vehicle is able to reliably protect troops from drones. it can be charged from a standard 220-volt outlet, and then conduct reconnaissance and surveillance for four hours and make 20-30 shots.

The Pentagon's Office of Non-lethal Weapons creates a prototype acoustic cannon to generate loud sounds at any point in space at a distance from itself. This weapon uses lasers capable of generating pulses of several femtoseconds in length. One of the generators forms a ball of plasma in the air, the second directs a laser beam of a very narrow spectrum at it. When laser radiation interacts with plasma, a bright glow and a loud sound appear. Changing the frequency of laser radiation acting on the plasma allows you to change the frequency of the resulting sound. Researchers are confident that from 2021 they will be able to recreate the human voice using a laser and plasma.

In 2017, the US Air Force tested a streamlined miniature airborne laser "tower". It allows you to use directed energy weapons at 360 degrees.

According to the generals, the United States is on the verge of creating a " true laser weapon." It will appear in five or six years. But no later than the second half of 2023, the Americans can deploy four batteries of combat lasers to destroy cruise missiles. The emphasis was always on strategic confrontation, so very powerful laser systems were required. But the proliferation of UAVs and small boats has helped shift the focus to tactical systems.

of course, traditional tasks are not forgotten. 50-kw lasers will be installed on stryker armored vehicles as part of the short-range air defense system. By the end of 2021, the US Army will adopt four such machines with laser installations.

The laser is also used for auxiliary purposes. The Boeing concern will equip the KC-46A Pegasus refueling transports with laser rangefinders, installing them in the area of the refueling rod. Refueling operators will be able to accurately determine the distance to the refueled aircraft and accurately bring the rod to the fuel receiver.

In general, the plans of the Pentagon and the Missile Defense Agency are often perceived as a retrospective of the project "Strategic Defense Initiative" (SOI), known as "Star Wars". The central idea of the project is the deployment of laser weapons systems in space. it involves the development of directed energy weapons to intercept ballistic missiles on the upper stage of the trajectory.

And Elon Musk's company Space X has confirmed plans to deliver American weapons to space. The idea of creating an orbital directed energy weapon – a kind of space lasers for detecting and destroying missiles from Russia, China and North Korea-is being worked out. By 2023, the United States plans to create a "sensor shield" in space to counteract already hypersonic missile systems.

But there is a comic flaw: The US Air Force can deprive Elon Musk of access to state secrets. It turns out that the American genius during one of the live TV programs scored a joint with a drug and lit up.

name/file/img/lazernyi-kompleks-peresvet-neset-boevoe-dezhurstvo-v-podrazdeleniyah-raketnyh-v-phckip50-1608239281.t.jpg"title="The laser complex "Peresvet" is on combat duty in the units of the Strategic Missile Forces. Frame from the video of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation">

The laser complex "Peresvet" is on combat duty in the units of the Strategic Missile Forces. Frame from the video of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

It is impossible to evade

Israel has created an innovative weapon: shooting lasers. Their uniqueness is in the principle of action. To neutralize the target, you need to focus the laser beam on a single point for a few seconds. the enemy missile is detected by radar, which transmits tracking of it to the laser installation. this setup uses a special camera to optically capture the target. When the target extends to the entire screen, the system selects the place of aiming, the laser beam is delayed on it. Detonation - and the target is hit.

Laser beams travel at the speed of light, so there is no need to apply pre-emption when shooting at distances less than 300 thousand km. That is, it is impossible to evade the laser shot. The laser cannon has no tangible recoil.

Such installations have already been delivered to the air defense and missile defense forces. The Israelis have a laser missile defense system "Keren Barzel "("Iron beam") to protect against mortar and rocket attacks of short range.

In Japan, the military planned to arm the maritime self-defense Forces with two newest Project 27DD destroyers by 2020. first, the ships will enter service with conventional weapons on board, and then receive railguns and lasers. But whether these plans were realized – information on this subject is contradictory.

japan plans to use the pulses of a powerful fiber-optic laser on the iss to destroy enemy satellites and space debris. a high-power laser beam on a ship or aircraft will be directed at a ballistic missile (apparently a north korean one) at the stage of its acceleration after launch. And it will be able to deform and destroy the rocket due to the high temperature at the point of laser heating of its body.

French companies Nexter and Cilas are developing ground-based laser weapons. The French will also equip spacecraft with laser weapons to protect them from Russian and Chinese spacecraft. The LO will be based on small satellites and used to disable satellite surveillance systems of a likely enemy.

France has adopted a new space defense strategy. Within its framework, space troops will be created, satellites with laser and laser-machine gun (!) weapons will be developed, and clouds of patrolling nanosatellites will appear. The program runs until 2025.

Turkish arms manufacturer Roketsan launched production of the country's first laser-guided surface-to-surface missile in April 2020. It will enter the TB2 fleet of operational and tactical drones and will be used in Turkey's military operations abroad. The missile starts from the ground and hits the target designated by the UAV. They are already being used in northern Iraq and Syria to fight Kurdish rebels.

turkey has also successfully tested the hgk-84 lab laser guidance system for aerial bombs. Mk-84 bombs with its help turn into an intelligent air-to-ground weapon and accurately hit the target in all weather conditions.

The Turkish military has completed testing of a promising ARMOL combat laser system. It is mounted on a Cobra armored vehicle. these combat lasers can provide reliable protection of military bases and patrols from small uavs.

the 1.25 kw armol is capable of burning 3 mm thick steel plates from a distance of 500 m. The Total weight of the installation With control And reconnaissance systems is 400 kg. a similar combat laser can be installed on fighters to protect them from missiles with optical guidance systems.

laser "kalashnikov" in chinese

the republic of korea has been developing a block-1 air defense system based on laser weapons since 2019. The system will be able to detect and track small-sized UAVs, quickly destroy them at a short distance using a fiber-optic laser. The system has a high speed of response to threats. The cost of each Block-1 shot is about 2,000 South Korean won ($1.65).

The British advanced LDEW combat laser on a car platform can be used to protect, for example, ships from missile threats or military personnel from enemy mortars and artillery. LDEW will become a short-range defense system and will allow you to effectively deal with ground, surface and air targets.

Chinese scientists create a laser assault rifle ZKZM-500. It has already been dubbed the "laser AK-47". It is capable of hitting targets at a distance of about 800 m with an invisible beam that sets clothes on fire and causes burns. Gunsmiths believe, however, that it is impossible to cram a laser device that will have a striking effect into the dimensions of a Kalashnikov assault rifle. And they ask an ironic question: what is the striking effect of a laser pointer?

The developers refer the three-kilogram ZKZM-500 to a non-lethal weapon. Such as stun guns, acoustic cannons, microwave emitters, or blinding flashlights. ZKZM-500 radiation leads to rapid charring of the surface layer of the skin, causing an unbearable burning sensation. The power of the rifle can be increased to burn through the walls of fuel tanks of cars, ignite fuel.

The Chinese mobile combat laser system with a capacity of 30 kW is capable of quickly and accurately hitting UAVs at a range of 25 km. Installation Silent Hunter "Silent hunter" with a range of up to 4 km has a combat laser power of 30-100 kW and 800 m is able to burn through sheet steel with a thickness of 5 mm.

A laser cannon capable of intercepting rockets is being developed. Scientists propose to launch a five-ton chemical laser into orbit by 2023, which would disable US satellites.

Sentry at the missile silo

In the Russian Armed Forces, the Peresvet laser systems have been on combat duty in the positional areas of five missile divisions of the Strategic Missile Forces since December 1, 2019.

As suggested by American analysts, "Peresvet" is designed to illuminate satellites that collect data on Russian intercontinental missiles, spacecraft of the early warning system of missile attack and missile defense.

Blinded optical and electron-optical devices temporarily lose the ability to detect targets. Disabling them can become a prerequisite for neutralizing the US missile defense system during the preparation for a missile strike and at the time of its application. American experts suggest that the Russian installation is equipped with a nuclear-pumped laser.

"Peresvet" also works effectively against drones, but only in ideal conditions-in the absence of fog, sandstorms and precipitation. The complex can counteract the optical surveillance systems of ships and aircraft, and can replace the artillery and missile systems of air defense. These combat laser systems do not burn through the target itself, but blind its guidance means.

By 2022, the Russian military will receive more than ten new systems, including laser-optical systems, for detecting space objects. Lasers installed on Russian combat aircraft will be able to disable the entire space echelon of a possible enemy. And under whose control the cosmos, he wins on Earth.

In 2020, Russia developed a tactical laser system for destroying unmanned aerial vehicles and disabling lightly protected surface targets. on-board defense systems of strategic, tactical and army aircraft against damage by surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles with optical homing heads are equipped with laser protection systems.

Not spared the "laser influence" and the security forces on the ground. The troops receive BMP-3 with a laser searchlight for night combat PL-1-01. It illuminates targets in the infrared range for night vision devices. From a distance of 100 m, the radiation is almost invisible to the naked eye.

As you know, the company "Sukhoi" is establishing mass production of the export version of the fifth-generation fighter Su-57 (PAK FA, T-50). Among other things, it is equipped with laser "turrets" that shoot at the attacking missile to disorient it. The so-called "soft kill" system is installed to protect against infrared-guided missiles. Previously, only large aircraft and helicopters were equipped with such a system to protect against portable air defense systems. The system is considered effective against long-range guided missiles with IR guidance.

The current state of the LO of our military satisfies. The prospects are also good. The armed forces will receive a completely new weapon, the combat properties of which are based on laser energy and hypersound technologies! Its first samples are already on experimental combat duty.

In the year 2050

rapid technological advances are changing the nature of war. For example, the tactics of countering aircraft with laser weapons are as follows: a massive launch of long-and medium-range guided air-to-air missiles. This is to oversaturate the capabilities of laser weapons and anti-missile missiles to repel a blow. Pilots have to Dodge in the middle of an air battle with aircraft equipped with laser weapons. But with the growth of its capacity, this scenario will become ineffective. One of the requirements for sixth – generation aircraft is high-speed shutters that close when laser radiation hits.

Even today, weapons developers are thinking not even for years, but for decades to come. By 2050, the basis of intelligence will be a radio-optical phased array (ROFAR), which will replace the active phased array. ROFAR allows you to more than halve the mass of equipment, increase the resolution by ten times, get almost a television image in the radar range, detect objects that are not visible in the optical range. ROFAR will reset all of the technologies reduce the visibility!

Not far off is the widespread use of special VVT plating in several layers. The outer layer has a high thermal conductivity, is able to "smear" the thermal effect of the laser on the body, and the inner layer will provide thermal insulation of internal volumes.

By 2050, one or two lasers with a power of 300-500 kW can be installed on the aircraft. This will make it possible to output radiation in the lower and upper planes of the aircraft for a circular zone of destruction. Perhaps it will be infrared fiber lasers with a combination of power from several emitters. Aiming with the pilot's eye and automated algorithms for selecting vulnerable target points will become possible.

The age-old problem of providing lasers with electricity can be solved by diverting energy from the rotation shafts of gas turbine engines. Of course, electric generators, the laser itself, a massive anti-laser coating will lead to an increase in the size and take-off weight of aircraft – it can be from 50 to 100 tons for a promising multifunctional fighter in 2050. "This is a decrease in maneuverability!" – an aviator who adheres to traditional views will exclaim. But taking into account laser weapons and "nimble" anti-missiles, maneuverability will no longer be of significant importance.

When assembling a promising combat aircraft, it seems that they will abandon the vertical tail and the front horizontal tail in order to provide protection from thermal loads that occur at high flight speed and as a result of irradiation with laser weapons.

An alternative to aircraft and rather promising carriers of laser weapons of air defense could be airships: for them, the weight and size restrictions on the payload are much less. So far there are none.

When choosing offensive weapons, priority will be given to hypersonic air-to-air guided missiles with anti-laser protection. Missile guidance will be conducted via a secure radio channel or a "laser path". In addition to small-sized highly maneuverable anti-missiles, laser weapons will be included in the defensive armament. And we must take into account: combat lasers are still seriously inferior to missiles in terms of "cost−effectiveness".

All of the above may seem fantastic. However, was it possible in the age of wooden, percale biplanes to predict the appearance of a jet fighter?

The new state armament program until 2033 should provide for the expansion of the line of laser and hypersonic weapons, combat robots and drones, President Putin said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council in 2019.

The US Army expects to reach the technological level of readiness of the new laser weapon system in 2028.


Nikolai Poroskov

Nikolai Nikolaevich Poroskov is a military journalist.

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