Military Review

Battle Quantum Generators of the USSR

Soviet laser against ...

In a previous article "Laser for US NAVY" talked about american laser weapons. Most readers probably have questions: what was the Soviet Union doing at that time? Has our superpower sat idly by and was not going to answer? Calm him: did. Laser work in the USSR was ongoing and had some success. What exactly happened and what not is the subject of this article.

... rockets

The beginning of the Soviet laser program can be considered the day when a group of eminent scientists were N.G. Basov, Yu.B. Khariton, G.V. Kisunko and E.N. Tsarevsky - they sent to the CPSU Central Committee a note on the principal possibility of using an optical quantum generator (the name of a laser used in Soviet science at that time) in missile defense. The note stated that with the appropriate development of laser and some other technologies, it is possible to create a combat unit that would strike the combat units of enemy ballistic missiles with a directed beam. Since quite recently there was a Caribbean crisis, which almost led to a nuclear war, and the missiles of a potential enemy became more and more perfect from year to year and carried an increasing charge, it was proposed to carry out a certain amount of work on laser missile defense. The proposal was reviewed by the Central Committee and approved. In 1966, the Government of the USSR issued a decree on the start of work on the Terra-3 program. It was required to create a laser with radiation energy not less than 1 MJ, as well as detection and targeting systems for it. The whole experimental setup was called NEK (full-scale experimental complex); the presence in the complex of the laser for reasons of secrecy was not mentioned in the title. The work was entrusted to the Vympel design bureau, and later Luch, the Central Design Bureau (the future of the Astrophysics NGO) will join them. Also, leading institutes, including VNIIEF and FIAN, were involved in the work on Terra-3. Test NEC was planned at the site number XXUMX, aka Sary-Shagan, in Kazakhstan (Lake Balkhash region).

The remaining years of the decade in all the organizations involved were intense work on the topic, and already in 1970, construction of the NEC began at the site. At this stage, the project was occupied by the best minds of the national defense industry, it suffices to look only at the management of the program: this is Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR B.V. Bunkin, and academician E.P. Velikhov, and corresponding member of the Academy N.D. Ustinov. Construction of the complex lasted until the end of 72-th, and then began testing various systems. In November of the following year, the first tests of the installation were conducted in combat mode - then a stationary target was hit at a relatively short distance. Nevertheless, it was necessary to start with something, and even such a “trifle” went to power. In 1974, NEC was shown by delegations from the Ministry of Defense, headed by Minister A.A. Grechko. During the demonstration firing, the laser destroyed the training target, the size of which was comparable to the size of a coin with a face value of five kopecks. At first glance, this is more like a clean "window dressing", but with a closer look at those firing, you can come to the conclusion that the complex guidance system is perfect.

The high command of the Ministry of Defense estimated the results of the work on the Terra-3 project and ordered the creation of a new complex, more power and greater efficiency. Soon a new system was built, called 5H76. The main equipment and command post of the combat laser station was located in the same building, encrypted as “41 / 42В”, and an additional structure had to be built next to it to house the generators in it. By the time construction began, scientists did not have such equipment of sufficient power - they had to install less powerful generators, but they were available.

The results of the pioneering work of FIAN'a giant photodissociation lasers of VNIIEF. On the left - an explosive laser, 1 MJ / 100 μs, on the right - with a discharge, 30 kJ / 1 ns.

5H76 managed to run back in 70-s and exploited until the end of the next decade. There are no details on the progress of the work - not much time has passed for them to be declassified. In general, one important caveat should be made: all Soviet laser projects were secretly and well kept for a long time, and because of this, even now, almost half a century after the decree about Terre-3, there is much less information available than we would like. In particular, it is still unknown exactly what type of lasers were used in the Terra-3 program. Different sources (from well-respected to doubtful ones) mention various designs - from gas and solid-state to chemical and free-electron lasers. It is this secrecy that gives rise to various conjectures. For example, there is information (there are no confirmations or refutations) that in October 1984, the Challenger shuttle, flying over Kazakhstan, fell under the beam of a laser machine, after which the crew felt unwell, and a number of shuttle systems were failing. How true this is is also unknown.

... air threat

If there is a possibility of laser shooting down a combat unit of a strategic rocket, when it has already entered the atmosphere, you can probably attack aerodynamic targets: airplanes, helicopters and cruise missiles? This problem was also attended to in our military department, and soon after the start of Terra-3, a resolution was issued on launching the Omega project, a laser defense system. It took place at the end of February 1967. The creation of an anti-aircraft laser was assigned to the Strela Design Bureau (a little later it would be renamed the Almaz Central Design Bureau). Relatively quickly, Strela conducted all the necessary calculations and formed an approximate appearance of an anti-aircraft laser complex (for convenience, we introduce the term ZLK). In particular, it was necessary to raise the beam energy at least to 8-10 megajoules. First, the ZLK was created with an eye to practical use, and secondly, it was necessary to shoot down an aerodynamic target quickly, until it reached the desired milestone (for airplanes, it was missile launch, bomb dropping, or a target in the case of cruise missiles). Therefore, the energy of the "salvo" was decided to do approximately equal to the energy of the explosion of the warhead anti-aircraft missile.

In 1972, the first Omega equipment arrived at the Sary-Shagan test site. The assembly of the complex led to the so-called. the 2506 object (Terra-3 worked on the 2505 object). The composition of the experienced ZLK did not include the combat laser — it was not yet ready — a radiation simulator was installed instead. Simply put, the laser is of lower power. Also, the installation had a laser locator-rangefinder for detection, identification and preliminary targeting to the target. With a radiation simulator, a guidance system was developed and the interaction of the laser beam with air was studied. The laser simulator was made by the so-called. technology on glass with neodymium, locator-rangefinder was based on a ruby ​​emitter. In addition to the features of the operation of the laser air defense system, which was undoubtedly useful, a number of shortcomings were identified. The main one is the erroneous choice of a combat laser system. It was found that glass with neodymium can not give the required power. The remaining problems were easily solved with less blood.

All the experience gained in testing Omega was used to create the Omega-2 complex. Its main part, the combat laser, is now built on an electrically pumped fast-flowing gas system. Carbon dioxide was chosen as a substance for the active medium. The aiming system was made on the basis of the Karat-2 television system. The result of all the improvements was the steaming debris of the RUM-2B target on the ground; for the first time this happened on September 22 of 1982. During the tests, "Omega-2" several more targets were shot down, the complex was even recommended for use in the troops, but not that it could even surpass the existing SAM systems by the characteristics of the laser.

... optics

In 1978, the Luch Central Design Bureau was transformed into the Astrophysics NGO. Around the same time, at Luch, an enterprise under the direction of General Designer N.D. Ustinov, work began on the creation of a mobile laser weapon. The first project was "Stiletto". According to the authors, this machine was supposed to detect enemy armored vehicles on the battlefield, determine the location of their optical devices and hit the latter with a precisely directed laser beam. On the chassis from self-propelled guns SAU-100P, a 1K11 laser and related equipment were installed. The laser could operate in a weak mode for targeting guided weapons and in a strong one - in this case, at a distance of about 5-7 kilometers (different data are provided in the sources), photocells of optical systems and transmitting tubes of television cameras were significantly damaged. Under the appropriate circumstances, an enemy tanker looking through an optical device could get a serious retinal burn. Moreover, the range of the "Stiletto" exceeded the range of the majority tanks. The laser was aimed at the target horizontally by turning the tower, vertically - through a system of mirrors. In 1982, two prototypes were built with a slightly different composition of additional equipment. Serially "Stiletto" was not built.
Simultaneously with “Stilet” in “Astrophysics” another self-propelled laser complex was developed, this time designed to combat airborne targets. The Sanguin machine looks similar to the Shilka self-propelled self-propelled gun, with the difference that the first one has a laser emitter unit instead of guns. Guidance was also carried out almost as on the “Shilka”: a swivel tower and an inclined radiator device. The Sanguin also had an additional low-power laser rangefinder and an updated fire control system (it would be more correct to say “light” or “beam”, wouldn't it?). On tests that began in 1983, Sanguin showed that he not only can determine the optical system of an air target, but also successfully hit it. At the same time, at optics over 10 km, the target optics were blinded for several minutes, and at distances in 8-10 km, the destruction of sensitive elements of optics had already begun. There is no exact data on the number of Sanguinovs released (secrecy, what to do), but at least one copy was made.

Battle Quantum Generators of the USSR

"Stiletto" and "Sanguin" were, without a doubt, good examples of technology. But they had one major drawback: one laser. In a combat situation, this meant that the enemy, having installed the appropriate light filters on his optics, could not be afraid of severe damage to electronics or eyes. The answer to the light filters suggested itself - to put on a self-propelled gun several lasers of different ranges, against which even a package of different filters would not help. In 1991, the lasers were immediately installed on specially modified chassis and chopping of the Msta-S self-propelled howitzer. The resulting machine was named 1K17 "Compression". The photographs show that the self-propelled gun has 12 lasers (two rows of six) and associated optics: a laser rangefinder, a lens of the guidance system, and two sights (day and night). Each laser has its own drives for targeting. Regarding the lasers themselves, there are two versions: one for each, specifically for Compression, a dozen 30-kilogram ruby ​​crystals were grown in the laboratory, the other is not a ruby ​​laser, but a so-called Nd: YAG (solid-state laser based on yttrium-aluminum garnet with additives neodymium). Nevertheless, both options would cost the manufacturer a lot of money and require high energy costs. To supply lasers with electricity, "Compression" had an additional power unit, which set in motion a special generator. State tests of the machine, judging by the recommendations for adoption, were successful. However, that seems to be the case. The USSR collapsed, and it was no longer up to "Compression".

In the air and in airless space

19 August 1981 of the year made the first flight of an IL-76MD aircraft, modified to the state of the flying laboratory A-60. The project was jointly engaged in the Almaz Central Design Bureau and the Taganrog Design Bureau. Beriev, in the same place two aircraft were converted into flying laboratories. The base IL-76 lost its cargo hatch and received a whole set of new equipment: a laser for pointing in a spherical fairing (on the nose) and turbo-generators supplying power to laser systems. The main laser was placed in the cargo hold, between the wing and the keel. So that in flight it would not interfere with aerodynamics, the corresponding section of the “back” of the aircraft was replaced with opening flaps: they opened, the laser moved out, and the work ambassador was removed back. The A-60 laser had a gas-dynamic circuit and carbon dioxide as the active medium. Radiation power exceeded 2 MW. Details of the tests for 30 years have not been published.

Since the end of 70-x, NPO Energia has developed the Skif space combat module, which, among other things, could carry laser weapons. Due to the large load of the initial developer in 81, the project was transferred to Salyut Design Bureau, and two years later they were closed. True, Reagan soon began talking about SOI and Skif resumed. By May 1987, after a series of delays in terms, a dynamic model of the device was made under the name “Skif-DM”, or “Polyus”. 15 May mockup, docked to the booster "Energy", went to the flight. The rise and separation of the "Pole" from "Energia" went smoothly, but due to a technical malfunction, the device could not go into orbit and soon fell in the Pacific. However, on Earth, more than 80% of the data that was planned to be removed when launching a dynamic layout was received. The "Skiff" with a laser installation was never built. Moreover, it is not even known whether they managed to design a laser for it or not.

Sad results

Work on laser missile defense and air defense systems at the Sary-Shagan test site proceeded with varying success until the start of the 90-x. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all important equipment was removed from the landfill, and the buildings gradually collapsed. Now if anyone is interested in 2505 and 2506 objects, then only environmentalists have used a large amount of polychlorinated biphenyls as an insulator on the Terra and Omega electrical equipment, which are among the most dangerous persistent organic pollutants.

Products NPO "Astrophysics", as already mentioned, were not built in series, and the existing machines suffered a sad fate. At the beginning of the 2000-x one of the copies of "Stiletto" was seen at the 61-m tank repair plant in St. Petersburg. Perhaps in the past tense, it has been recycled. The remains of the second Stiletto (chassis without target equipment) were found by enthusiasts at the Kharkov 171 tank repair plant in the 2010 year. Where the Sanguin has gone and whether it exists now is unknown, and the only instance of Szhatiya after a minor redecoration is on display at the Military Technical Museum in the village of Ivanovo (Moscow region).

With the A-60, the situation is a little more understandable. The first copy with the index 1А, according to some data, in 1989, Chkalovsky burned down at the airdrome. The second copy, called 1А2, is still stored on the TANTK them. Beriev. Also sometimes come across information about the existence of a third aircraft, but there is no serious evidence of this. From the middle of the 2000-s, the 1-2 aircraft has been used from time to time in various research flights.

As you can see, the fate of the Soviet projects of laser weapons is not much different from the American experience. And the reasons for this, it should be noted, are absolutely the same: the lack of a compact and super-powerful energy source, a number of practical problems and the relatively low efficiency of lasers compared to traditional weapons.
Impact force "Laser War"


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  1. urzul
    urzul 2 December 2011 11: 13
    What is what, but in lasers, we have always been ahead of the rest
    1. svvaulsh
      svvaulsh 12 December 2011 17: 16
      I just work at such an enterprise, where active elements for lasers are made. And I do not share optimism about ""
      Quote: urzul
      ahead of the rest
  2. Artemka
    Artemka 2 December 2011 13: 24
    This is true, in general in the USSR there were a lot of all kinds of developments, it is a pity everyone abandoned.
    1. Cardamom
      Cardamom 2 December 2011 14: 46
      No! Not abandoned! Laser weapons still keep Russian citizens awake, so the laser is actively used ... mainly against pilots of passenger aircraft during landing ....)
      1. Glenn witcher
        Glenn witcher 2 December 2011 15: 25
        These are all Chinese intrigues! wink
  3. Filin
    Filin 2 December 2011 21: 51
    The SOKOL-ECHELON program was resumed in 2006. This is a laser based on the IL-76.
    The main purpose of a flying laser is to dazzle American satellites.
  4. aleks
    aleks 4 December 2011 07: 34
    ask the Yankees where did they put the "missing" BLU samples and much more, allegedly missing - screens, GDP aircraft, missile samples - at the same time ask MO Grachev and Foreign Ministry Kozyrev about this.
  5. dred
    dred 12 December 2011 17: 00
    a bunch of developments and threw everything.
  6. Honory
    Honory 19 December 2014 13: 01
    So you can resume work. Many years have passed, technology has advanced, and the Americans have not stopped.