Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Russia is Resurrecting Soviet Era Airborne Laser Weapon

Laser tester

(Photo : Russian Aerospace Forces) Beriev A-60

Russia is reportedly working on a new airborne laser weapon and the aircraft to carry it based on a 35 year-old design dating back to the Soviet era.

Oddly, Russian media still refers to this new project by the old designation, A-60. It also said research is being undertaken to develop this next generation airborne laser weapon.

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Several years ago, news stories claimed the mothballed project had been re-activated. New media stories reports seem to bear this out.

What's known so far is the first prototype of an airborne laser weapon was mounted on an Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter. This airborne laser laboratory plane, the Beriev A-60, first flew with a laser in 1981.

In 1977, the Beriev Design Bureau began designing a flying laboratory designated "1А." The purpose of this project was to solve the complex scientific and engineering problems facing the development of an airborne laser, and to facilitate research on the distribution of beams in the top layers of an atmosphere.

The Almaz/Beriev A-60 program was intended by the Soviets as a parallel program to the U.S .Air Force Airborne Laser Laboratory. The Russian program aimed to demonstrate an airborne high-energy laser, directed energy weapon capability.

The A-60 was a research testbed and two demonstrator aircraft were built. The Soviets never revealed the achievements in this program.

The A-60 preceded the first U.S. version of the airborne laser, the Boeing YAL-1A Airborne Laser Testbed that first flew in 2002. This weapons system was a megawatt chemical oxygen iodine laser mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F.

It was designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles in boost phase. The YAL-1A with a low-power laser was test-fired in flight at an airborne target in 2007.

A high-energy laser was used to hit a test target in January 2010. It later successfully destroyed two test missiles. Funding for the program was cut in 2010 and the program was canceled in December 2011. The plane was scrapped in 2014.

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