Will anti-drone laser air defense systems take root in Russia?

The development of unmanned aerial vehicles of various types and their continuous "militarization", which was spurred on by the SVO in Ukraine, represents a serious challenge for the defense industry of any country. But if a new sharp "sword" appears, then its own "shield" must necessarily appear against it.

"Sword and shield"

Why did primitive UAVs suddenly become such a problem for our country, whose military-industrial complex was preparing to fight the United States and the entire NATO bloc, shooting down enemy cruise and ballistic missiles? Since the existing air defense / missile defense system was sharpened specifically for them, and not for intercepting small-sized low-speed drones flying at low altitude. Now, residents of Moscow, which was considered securely covered by an air defense umbrella since Soviet times, are suffering from this break in patterns.

The problem is not even to shoot down these UAVs, but to detect and destroy them in a timely manner, not over densely populated cities that can suffer from fragments of anti-aircraft missiles and enemy kamikaze drones stuffed with powerful explosive charges. At the same time, the arithmetic for the cost of weapons and destroyed objects is strongly not in our favor. And now, in the domestic media, information began to be published that Russia had its own miracle weapon based on “new physical principles”, namely the anti-drone laser air defense system, successfully tested at the test site:

Demonstrated high efficiency in defeating UAVs in the near zone.

Arguing on the topic of the prospects of this type of weapons, it is necessary to look at world experience.

"Star Wars"

They started talking about laser weapons back in the days of the Cold War, when they were seriously going to place them in space to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles. Fortunately, things still did not come to Star Wars, but even after the collapse of the USSR, the United States did not abandon work in the field of laser weapons. The Americans experimented with installing such devices on warships and aircraft, since only they were able to provide sufficient energy power.

Since 2012, the Pentagon has relied not on chemical lasers, but on solid-state ones. Boeing Corporation has developed a mobile HELMD (High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator) air defense laser weapon system based on a 105,5 kW MSVS SMP four-axle off-road truck, which, together with the EMMR radar station, is designed to detect and destroy cruise missiles, artillery and mortar shells, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles. Its main competitor, Lockheed Martin, has created a prototype ADAM laser mobile complex for the US Army, capable of shooting down drones at a distance of up to 2 km.

They are actively working in the same direction in Israel, which has a lot of problems with shelling its territory with primitive rockets launched by the Palestinians almost from cuttings of water pipes. Shooting them down by the Israeli air defense / missile defense system does not seem to be a problem, however, in terms of the ratio of the cost of the ammunition used and the object destroyed by it economy the war is not in favor of the IDF. The zealous Israelis decided to try to create an effective laser air defense system. The defense companies Rafael and Elbit jointly developed an anti-aircraft system, which received several names at once: Iron Beam / “Keren Barzel” (“Iron Beam”) and “Magen Or” or Light Shield (“Light Shield”).

The mobile complex includes a situational illumination radar, a command post and two combat vehicles with laser systems. The range of the "Iron Beam" is declared at 7 km. It is alleged that the laser is capable of burning rocket and mortar artillery ammunition, as well as various UAVs, in the air. The main thing here is the cost of a shot, which is 3-4 US dollars, which is very profitable compared to anti-aircraft missiles. The Israelis promise to further reduce it to $2. In general, all this looks quite tempting and attractive, but how can a laser air defense system take root in Russian realities?


In fact, work in the field of armaments based on "new physical principles" has been going on in our country for quite a long time. In 2018, President Putin personally spoke about the Peresvet laser system, which is designed to "dazzle" enemy satellite systems and other weapons. However, there is also a promising laser anti-aircraft complex "Zadira" - specifically for the destruction of missiles and UAVs.

At the New Horizons educational marathon last year, then Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov spoke about Zadir:

If "Peresvet" blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons already leads to physical damage to the object, that is, to thermal damage, burns it through ... This, as they say, is of a completely different class technique to combat drones, so that we do not spend expensive missiles such as "Pantsir" and "Torah".

According to a functionary from the military-industrial complex, this innovative anti-aircraft system is capable of burning an aircraft in the air at a distance of up to 5 km in 5 seconds and has already been successfully used in the zone of a special military operation in Ukraine. That is, we, it turns out, keep up with the world leaders in the field of laser weapons. But is it worth seriously expecting mass production and the introduction of such air defense systems into our air defense system?

It seems that this will not happen in the near future. The work of lasers is seriously complicated by the usual bad weather - rain, snow, fog, a common thing for the climatic conditions of Russia or Ukraine. Is it possible to rely on an anti-aircraft complex, the effectiveness of which drops during precipitation? We still do not have Israel with its climate and small territory. It is more rational to solve the problem of Ukrainian and other drones in other ways.

Firstly, it is necessary to organize work on their timely detection, for which a network of radar stations raised to a height is needed - on AWACS aircraft, AWACS drones, AWACS airships or the simplest AWACS tethered balloons. Secondly, it is necessary to destroy enemy UAVs, preventing them from reaching settlements, which requires not laser anti-aircraft guns, but high-speed air interceptors. These can be both manned light attack aircraft based on combat training Yak-130s, and unmanned fighter drones like the Iranian Karrar, equipped with a six-barreled 7,62-caliber machine gun, launched from containers mounted on a mobile chassis.
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  1. Monster_Fat Offline Monster_Fat
    Monster_Fat (What's the difference) 29 August 2023 15: 30
    laser systems. can be used for object air defense in the depths of the territory because they are large and expensive. The most convenient, at the moment, means of "anti-drone" air defense are: cannon artillery and machine guns of various calibers, especially multi-barrel Gatling systems.
  2. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) 29 August 2023 18: 39
    Will anti-drone laser air defense systems take root in Russia?

    - clear stump can take root.
    As well as "manned light attack aircraft based on the combat training Yak-130, and unmanned fighter drones like the Iranian Karrar"
    If they appear.
    Just as long as they don't. Neither one nor the other, not the third
  3. calligrapher Lev_Nikolaevich (Dmitriy) 29 August 2023 19: 39
    There are questions to the very concept of countering drones with a laser:
    1. If the beam can only cope with a small target, then it is expected that there will be many such targets at the same time.
    2. Based on this, a problem arises - the high energy intensity of the pulse and its length in time will not make it possible to cope with a swarm of drones using one installation.
    3. The number of installations required for reliable defense will be disproportionately expensive relative to the means of attack, and at the same time will not give guarantees due to sensitivity to weather conditions. Not to mention the fact that the first of the attack drones can carry an aerosol charge that completely blocks the capabilities of laser air defense.
    It seems that for terrestrial applications, laser development is a dead end branch of development.
  4. Vasya 225 Offline Vasya 225
    Vasya 225 (Vyacheslav) 29 August 2023 19: 57
    1977 . Showing Marshal Kuleshov a hole. complex "Stiletto". A terrible car came out on seven rinks. Marshal ordered to tie a stray dog. The car slammed an impulse on him from 300 m. The dog did not look at her. He just scratched himself. The marshal spat and said that he should not see this thing again.
    Until now, laser systems do not pull against conventional weapons. Maybe in a dozen years free electron lasers. And yet weak.
  5. DO Offline DO
    DO (Dmitriy) 29 August 2023 20: 12
    The operation of lasers is seriously complicated by the usual bad weather - rain, snow, fog

    But after all, we are talking about countering enemy light drones, reconnaissance and strike drones. These drones usually have an optical or thermal imaging camera on board, optionally plus a laser pointer or a laser spot guidance system.
    Consequently, in "bad weather - rain, snow, fog", the very use of these drones by the enemy is difficult in much the same way as the operation of laser weapons against them.
    And power-armed drones with hundreds of kilograms of radar on board are no longer light drones, but heavy ones, which are at least no cheaper than air defense missiles and are clearly visible on radars.
    1. DO Offline DO
      DO (Dmitriy) 29 August 2023 23: 31
      Of course, drones with GPS guidance and an onboard gyroscope can operate in any weather. Against them in bad weather, other than laser weapons should be used.
      In the meantime, the main troubles of our front line are delivered by small enemy drones like mavics, with optical and infrared "vision".
  6. Vladimir Tuzakov (Vladimir Tuzakov) 29 August 2023 21: 51
    While the miracle weapon "engineer Garin's hyperboloid" does not work, in fact, lasers are of huge dimensions (one power plant in terms of power), and weak for instant burning. The prospect, without breakthrough improvements, is vague., But it is very suitable for "cutting" big money.
  7. twice-born Offline twice-born
    twice-born (Unknown) 29 August 2023 21: 58
    Our good old Shilkas should perfectly cope with unmanned helicopters and airplanes.
    1. bossy dude Offline bossy dude
      bossy dude (Thinking out loud) 31 August 2023 23: 25
      They can’t. They stupidly don’t see them. Especially the newest cardboard ones, which soaked 4 Su-30s and MiG-29s near Kursk, an S-300 backlight locator and 2 Pantsir air defense systems
  8. imjarek Offline imjarek
    imjarek (imjarek) 30 August 2023 23: 37
    UAVs do not need to be destroyed. It is enough to disrupt the communication channel between the UAV and its operator using radio interference. Without control, the UAV is a useless piece of iron. And you don’t need to aim at the UAV. Has flown in a zone of hindrances -- and with the ends !
    1. bossy dude Offline bossy dude
      bossy dude (Thinking out loud) 31 August 2023 23: 34
      it was smooth on paper, but forgot about the ravines.

      Even civilian drones are sometimes not always able to be drowned out. For the military, in general, everything is much more difficult, since there are not only secure communication channels, but they automatically constantly change the communication channel with the operator in frequencies. Moreover, advanced strike drones have combined guidance systems and , moreover, at the final stages of the flight they switch to the "silence" mode and enters the target at previously received coordinates or, for example, an infrared homing head with a "memory" for pre-set target parameters is turned on. Therefore, such a drone is not affected by EW interference.
      It is the complex guidance algorithm of the Bla Lancet (secret) that allows it to almost not respond to the electronic warfare of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (and the electronic warfare of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is NOTHING! is almost as good as Russian in quality).
  9. Colonel Kudasov Offline Colonel Kudasov
    Colonel Kudasov (Leopold) 31 August 2023 06: 49
    An unsolvable problem of destroying laser systems is the mirror coating of drones. It's not that expensive but definitely hits the mark. So the only real solutions are blinding lasers or microwave emitters.
  10. hlp5118 Offline hlp5118
    hlp5118 (hlp) 3 September 2023 12: 33
    Clearly, no. The laser only hits in a straight line within sight. More effective is an American projectile with a drop-down mesh of several tens of meters. Can absorb drones at any distance.
  11. Flight Offline Flight
    Flight (voi) 5 September 2023 02: 22
    The craving for laser weapons has not weakened since the beginning of the 20th century. Why? Whence such an aspiration for these rays? 100 years of development of this weapon and zero exhaust, but the perseverance in development, worthy of a better application, does not subside.