Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

In the beginning of 70s military leadership of Soviet Union had a great interest in laser weapon development. Laser equipment was planned to put in space platforms, stations and aircrafts.

All the built units were based on stationary sources of energy and didn’t meet the requirment of military space – full autonomy. This also didn’t allow designers to carry out rigorous test. The government of the USSR ordered the Navy to test and work out autonomy. Laser gun which was figured in all documents as MSU (powerful propulsion unit) was decided to be installed to a ship.
In 1976 Sergey Gorshkov, a chairman of Navy approved rebuilding of landing ship 770 SDK-20 to experimental ship called project 10030 “Foros”. It was planned to test here “Akvilon” – a laser complex which targets were optical-electron units and opponent ship crew.
Process of rebuilding lasted for 8 years. Ship’s hull needed to be imroved because of “Akvilon” huge size and weight. At last in September of 1984 ship OS-90 “Foros” joined The Black Sea Fleet of the USSR.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Indeed, a lot had been changed in the ship’s hull. Traps were replaced by stem and bow section, 1,5 metre wide board bulge were formed, additional storey was built as 1 module with all equipment and rooms, a crane of  100 tonne carrying capacity was installed. To lower the level of noise all living and service rooms had sound-absorbing isolation. Cofferdam (a narrow horizontal or vertical section separating neighbouring rooms) also emerged for this purpose.

“Akvilon” complex was installed very carefully. A great attention was paid at designing of its bearing.

In October of 1984 first successful tests of “Foros” were carried out in Feodosiya. It was the first time in history of Soviet Navy when low flying missile had been promptly found and destructed by laser beam.

But there were some disadvantages – the attack lasted for several seconds and preparations took more than 24 hours. Efficiency output was very low – about 5%. No doubt that scientists gained experience of using laser in the battle. But dissolution of the Soviet Union and following economic crisis stopped the experiments.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

“Foros” wasn’t the only Soviet Navy ship where laser units were tested.

Practically at the same, in 1978, began modernization of  dry cargo ship “Dikson” in Sevastopol and building of laser unit in Kaluga. All the work on creating a new laser gun was kept in secret. It must have become the most powerful Soviet battle laser unit. The project was called “Aidar”.

Modernization of “Dikson” required a great amount of money and resources. Moreover during the work designers often faced scientific and technical problems. For example, in order to equip the ship with 400 air bottles designers had to put off metal covering from both sides completely. It was found out later that hydrogen could be accumulated in confined space and blow by an accident. So they had to install heavy ventilation system. Especially for laser unit the top deck was designed to be opened as 2 parts. As a result builders had to strengthen the hull which lost its tenacity. To strenghten propulsion system the ship was equipped with 3 Tu-154 jet engines.

In the end of 1979 “Dikson” was moved to the Black Sea, the Crimea, Feodosiya. Here at Ordzhonikidze shipyard it was equipped with a laser gun and control systems. The crew settled the ship also here.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Laser gun.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The first test of “Dikson” took place in summer of 1980. The ship had only one gun salvo and it was enough to strike the target located in 4 kilometres on the beach. The hit was registered by a heat sensor installed in the target though there were no visiual signs of the beam and damage.  Efficiency output also accounted for 5%. The energy of the beam was absorbed by expulsion of sea water.

However the tests were recognized to be successful. Designers created the laser for use in space and as we know there is perfect vacuum there.

Besides low efficiency output and battle features the unit had huge size and was difficult in service.

Tests continued till 1985. As a result researchers got information – in what way battle laser units can be built, in what kinds of ships to be installed, they could even improve the power of laser. All planned tests had been successfully finished by 1985.

Nevertheless designers and military authorities understood it was unlikely to put such a “monster” in orbit in next 20-30 years. These arguments were announced to senior authorities who cared besides these problems about many-millioned expenditures and time constraints of building the laser.

By that time transoceanic opponent of the USSR faced the same problems. Space weapon race stalled in the very beginning. The results were negotiations  on “defence and space” which influenced in double-ended curtailment of military space programmes. The USSR stopped all the work in several space programmes. Project “Aidar” was also finished and unique ship “Dikson” was forgotten.

Both ships were included in 311 division of experimental ships. In 1990s laser units were dismantled, technical documentation destroyed. Pioneers of laserbuilding “Foros” and “Dikson”  were sent to be destroyed.

What concerns land forces?

Automotive laser complex.

In the end of 70s – beginning of 80s global “democratic” communty dreamed under the influence of “Star Wars”.  At the same time keeping in secret USSR was slowly realizing Hollywood dreams. Soviet cosmonauts flew in space armed with rayguns, battle stations and space fighters were designed and laser tanks were driven on the land.

 

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Providing the reaction to optical-electron observing systems and weapon control systems in terms of tough climatic conditions was the main mission for laser complex. Sverdlovsk (Ekatirinburg today) design department “Uraltransmash” the leading developer of practically all Soviet self-propelled artillery designed undercarriage of the complex.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

A picture of the Soviet laser complex from «Soviet Military Power» journal.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

“Astrofizika” was one of the organizations who developed laser complexes. Its leaders held posts in the government. Thus the organization had no problems with investment and resources. By 1982 (4 years after creation) they had designed SLK 1K11 “Stilet”.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Officially this complex is being adopted today. However, nothing has been heard about experimental machines for a very long time. There were no need in them after finishing the tests. After Dissolution of the Soviet Union they were scattered about the whole country and turned into scrap metal. In the late 90s – beginning of 2000s one of the machines was found in a utilization center near St. Petersburg.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Another unique machine designed together with “Astrofizika” and “Uraltransmash” had a better destiny. It was SLK 1K17 “Sjatie” – a complex of new era with automatic search and targeting systems.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

New complex needed a larger amount of power. Powerful generators driven by additional autonomous propulsion unit were used for this purpose.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The heavy complex was based on the latest self-propelled gun undercarriage 2S19 “Msta-S”. It was widenedin order to place propulsion and optical-electron equipment.

Autonomous propulsion unit was placed in the back. Optical section including 15 lenses was put instead of gun tube. While moving the lenses were closed with armoured covers. This section could target in vertical position. Workplace was located in the middle of the cabin. Anti-aircraft gun and 12,8 mm machine gun were installed on the roof for self-defense.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The frame was built by “Uraltransmash” in December, 1990. In 1991 the complex entitled 1K17 was tested and adopted in 1992. The government highly appreciated the work on building of “Sjatie” complex. A group of “Astrofizika” employees was awarded with State Prize. Russians were the first at laserbuilding in the whole world.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

But dissolution of the Soviet Union destroyed everything. In terms of economic crisis many defence programmes were reconsidered.

“Sjatie” wasn’t the exception – in spite of  breakthrough technologies and good results an extremely high price made Military authorities doubt its efficiency. Super secret laser gun left unclaimed.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The only example of complex was hidden behind high fence until it was unexpectedly found in 2010 in the exposition of “the Military Technical Museum” located in Ivanovskoe village near Moscow. We should pay tribute to those who brought this exhibit, made it a public and fine example of Soviet science and engineering.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The second machine was found in Kharkov at the tank repairing factory.

Laser systems were dismantled from both machines. Petersburg machine has only the frame, Kharkov one is in better condition. Today enthusiasts try to  preserve it in order to put it in museum in future. Unfortunately the complex from Petersburg in all probability was utilized. “We know not what good is until we have lost it…”

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

SLK1K17 “Sjatie” was adopted in 1992 and was much better than “Stilet”. The first difference to be seen is use of a multichannel laser. Each of 12 optical channels (upper and lower row of lenses) had its own targeting system. It allowed to make laser unit multirange. Lenses in the middle row are referred to targeting system. Small and large lenses to the right are searching laser and receiving channel of automatic targeting system. The same pair of lenses to the left are optical  sights, a small one for day-time and large – for night. Night sight was equipped with 2 highlight range finder lasers. While moving the lenses were closed with armoured covers.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The main problem of any laser is an extremely low efficiency output. Even in the modern gas lasers it doesn’t exceed 5%. It needs a lot of energy. Powerful generators and additional autonomous propulsion unit  used for this purpose took much space of “Sjatie” which was based on self-propelled gun “Msta-S”.

Generators need some time to be charged. Perhaps rate of fire is the main disadvantage of “Sjatie” laser complex.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

The main advantage of laser weapon is direct fire. Independence of the wind and targeting system without ballistic corrections means accurate firing unavailable for usual artillery.

According to “Astrofizika” brochure “Sjatie” distance of fire is twice as large as a modern tank. So if a possible tank will come closer to 1K17 it will be destroyed before opening the fire. Sounds great!

However, direct fire is both the main advantage and disadvantage of laser weapon. It needs direct visibility to work.

In reality such tactics isn’t very effective. Moreover most of the territories being under the battle has some kind of relief.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

And when the same possible tank will be in fire distance from laser complex it will immediately get the advantage of rate of fire. “Sjatie” can destroy one tank but while charging the batteries it can be hit by another one.

Moreover there are more long-range weapons than  artillery. For example, Maverick missile with radiolocating targeting system which is launched from 25 kilometer distance. So “Sjatie” hidden in mountains will be a perfect target for it.

As far as dust, fog, atmospheric precipitation and smoke curtain are concerned it doesn’t stop the laser but minimize its firing distance. Thus laser complex has an extremely restricted area of tactical application.

Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union

Why have “Sjatie” and its predecessors emerged? There are many opinions. Perhaps these machines were considered to be testing units for future miltary and space technologies. Perhaps the government was ready to invest money in order to develop technologies and through experiments find the weapon of future.

There is a version that “Sjatie” is a psychological weapon. Possible presence of such a device may frighten opponents to loose their eyesight. Сontrary to the popular conception “Sjatie” doesn’t fall under UN protocol which bans use of dazzling weapon because it aimed at optical-electron systems rather than crew. It’s not forbidden to use the weapon which side effect may cause dazzling of people.

This may explain the fact that news about creation of top secret weapon including “Sjatie” and “Stilet” in the USSR promptly cropped up in American free press particularly in Aviation Week & Space Technology journal.

 

8 thoughts on “Secret Laser Devices Of the Soviet Union”

  1. The biggest challenge with battle lasers is to build the source which would fill the laser’s core with the fast and powerful impuls of energy and to switch its quantum state into the excited regime, so it would release it with coherent electromagnetic wave of light. According to the law of energy conservation, the source should be really powerful, usually, only the energy released by strong explosion can provide that and in case of lasers capable of shooting down the ballistic missiles – the small nuclear explosion should excite the laser. This makes lasers too expensive. Of course, lasers can be build, but this would be too expensive and devouring the taxpayers money. It’s way more important to build the portable powerful source of energy, such as portable TOKAMAK or battery capable of quick powerful discharge or the hypersonic missiles with intelligent targeting systems.

  2. The military industrial complex in the US(not to say that there was one in the USSR as well 70% of GDP on military) was really concerned about Soviet laser development.There was a much more powerful(in theory)laser at a facility the intent was for it to destroy spy satellites and also MIRVs it never got to that stage of development though but this was not discovered until the late 80’s.

    The whole “Star Wars” idea was a joke to be honest that never got much beyond the experimental stages either.The leadership in the West greatly feared a preemptive strike against its strategic missiles the Soviets leadership was most afraid of a decapitating strike against the leadership.The US came up with “Star Wars and the “MX” missiles the Soviets came up with “Dead Hand” and in 1983 they where so concerned about a strike comming they had the KGB start a program called “RYAN” where KGB agents in the west observed bases and banks and other infrastrue to observe for signs of preparation in the west many KGB agents knew that the concern was incorrect and made an effort not to make their reports not be alarming in anyway.In 1983 a US Marine Corps barracks was bombed in Beirut and as a result all US bases went to higher level of security this was mistaken by Soviet leadership as a sign of preparation later they found out that the 1983 NATO exercise “Able Archer 83” was going to include the US SECDEF in part of the training relating to the Pershing medium range ballistic missiles the Soviet leadership felt that this was a sure sign of a possible ruse and that it was going to be a real attack.Also in 1983 the US Navy violated Soviet airspace over Kamchatka so in general both the US and the USSR where on edge.In the end the it was decided not to include the SECDEF in “Able Archer 83” and around the same time period was when Stanislav Petrov was on watch duty and got what he knew to be false launch alerts from Soviet satellites looking at US silos.The really ironic thing is that this was not Petrovs normal shift the regular guy was ill so he filled in the other good thing is that Petrov had desgined the system and knew it had flaws and his engineering mind did not trust it 100% he based his actions on the fact that he did not fully trust the system and that it was only showing a handful of launches and not hundreds and he did not personally believe that the US attack.

  3. Treaties that already exist banning the use of weapons intended to blind people should be expanded upon to include any type of laser weapon.

    • Or maybe treaties that attempt to civilize war and limit the casualties to “acceptable levels”, that politicians can live with, should be banned?

      Just a random thought, that’s all…

      • I agree in the US military we had to learn the Geneva and Hague conventions or LOAC Law of Armed Conflict. To be honest many of the rules contradict themselves or can easily be taken advantage of and I have no doubt that at least some participants from insurgent forces to national forces do not always follow the “rules”.I agree with the idea that the killing of innocents should be avoided but that never works out as planned and that one should treat a surrendering combatant fairly but that does not always happen either.

  4. So, where is a secret laser weapon from 1920x – hyperboloid of Engineer Garin? It was most powerful and lethal laser gun of Soviets..

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