An Ilyushin air force tanker during tactical exercise of the Black Sea Fleet marine aviation in Yeisk. Photo: Sputnik via AFP/Vitaliy Timkiv

An anonymous source has told Russian news agency Interfax that Moscow has developed a plane-mounted laser that destroys satellites in orbit.

Interfax quoted the source on Saturday as saying that state-owned weapons maker Almaz-Antey has “completed work on the anti-satellite complex.” Defense One, in picking up the story, said the work includes the laser plus associated ground control gear.

“Independent and Western observers have not yet verified the claim. But the Russian program does exist,” the US defense website reported.

Almaz-Antey general designer Pavel Sozinov reportedly told Russian news service Ria Novosti that the Kremlin had ordered the company to develop weapons that could interfere electronically with or achieve “direct functional destruction of those elements deployed in orbit.”

The program is supposedly based on the Soviet-era Beriev A-60, a gas laser fitted inside a heavily modified Ilyushin Il-76MD cargo plane. The project also appears to resemble the USSR’s 1984 Kontakt 30P6 program. This effort focused on modifying a MiG-31D fighter to receive targeting data from the Krona-N space and satellite observation complex. The firing solution would then be used to down an enemy satellite with a 79M6 Kontakt missile.

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