A-60 Ladoga 1A Airborne Laser
The A60 special aviation system which was developed in the mid-1970s at the Beriev Aircraft Company. The Il-76MD transport airplane was the base. As part of the work, two flying laboratories were created: the 1A and 1A2. The A-60 was the peak of the Soviet laser program. The first flight with an onboard laser happened in 1983 and, by 1984, it had hit its first aerial target. The 1A aircraft was lost in a fire at the start of the 1990s. However, the 1A2 flying laboratory, having received specialized equipment in 2005, was named ‘Sokol Eshelon’ (Falcon-Echelon) and began flight tests again. This aircraft hit a hypothetical target in 2009 at a height of 1500 kilometers above the earth.
Complexes of laser weapons (CLO) have undoubted advantages over traditional types of weapons. These include: the possibility of an unexpected attack for the enemy and the practical instant delivery of the damaging factor to the target; the relative cheapness of the "shot" - consumable components to ensure the cycle of energy transmission (practically the cost of the "shot" is determined by the cost of manufacturing and operating the spacecraft, referred to the number of shots during its life cycle); the ability to perform a combat mission not only due to the physical destruction of target elements, but also due to the functional suppression of its optical and electronic means; no need to accumulate arsenals of expensive destructive weapons in peacetime. Airborne laser systems (LKAB), while retaining the main advantages of CLOs, have a number of important, inherent only to them, advantages: all-weather - firing LKAB into the upper hemisphere both on the near-horizon and near-air routes does not depend on the influence of the lower layers of the atmosphere and weather conditions (cloudiness , fog); the ability to operate in spectral ranges that are practically impervious to the lower layers of the atmosphere - LKAB is able to effectively use powerful lasers emitting in the spectral ranges of wavelengths that are strongly absorbed in the atmosphere; high mobility and maneuverability - LKAB is capable of promptly moving to the required airspace zone on command and at a given time to attack the target, taking the most advantageous position; the possibility of a long stay near a given enemy zone - the LKAB is capable of loitering for a significant time near the area where the intended targets are located. The versatility of the LKAB key technologies - technologies created during the development of laser systems on an airplane, due to the combination of increased requirements for equipment, can serve as a basis for creating laser systems of other types of basing. However, the main advantage of LKAB is the possibility of independent of weather conditions, almost instantaneous transportation within the upper hemisphere of the damaging factor over long distances. Thanks to this, with the use of LKAB, it becomes possible to perform tasks that are solved ineffectively, or are not solved at all in other ways. Attempts to create a flying laser date back to the Soviet era. The first copy of the aircraft A-60, created on the basis of Il-76MD, took to the air in 1981. The TANTK/AFL A-60 (1A) laser test aircraft was based on the Il-76M; converted by TANTK at Taganrog. It had two AI-24 APUs and an enlarged nose housing a target acquisition radar. A laser turret was installed in cargo bay which opened to the top. This was used from 1983 to 1987 to test the laser for the "Polyus" ("Skif DM") combat satellite, the launch of which failed 15 May 1987. The aircraft was reported destroyed in a ground fire at Chkalovski in the late 1980s and last noted there 20 August 1999 in a horrible condition, probably because of this internal fire. A second aircraft was modified for laser tests wich continued until 2009.
In the early 1970's in the United States there was a program for the development of laser weapons. Tests were conducted with the help of the flying laboratory Boeing NKC-135 Airborne Laser Lab. ALL flight tests began in January 1975.
In 1977 Taganrog Engineering Plant im. Georgi Dimitrov was charged with the creation of a special aviation set to address a number of important military-technical tasks in order to ensure the country's defense capability. It had to solve many complex scientific, technical and engineering problems. Much was done for the first time not only domestic but also in world practice, which required a huge amount of various development activities.
From 1977 GM Beriev began creating a counterpart flying laboratory product «1A» to develop major new technical solutions specialist aviation complex. The aircraft housed laser installation is designed to study the spread of radiation in the upper atmosphere. Work on this topic conducted in broad cooperation with enterprises and scientific organizations across the country, but the principal EDO has been a partner CDB «Almaz» which was led by Doctor of Technical Sciences, Academician BV Bunkin. In Taganrog, deputy chief designer of the aircraft became VD Zaremba, a leading designer - Yury A. Bondarev.
The development of work in the laser direction in the organizations of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR began in the second half of the 1960s. In August 1973, a special design bureau for the development of laser systems was formed at NPO Almaz on the basis of existing subdivisions. Its first boss and chief designer was Doctor of Technical Sciences Theodor Brakhman, and since 1975 the team has been headed by Doctor of Technical Sciences Lev Zakhariev.
Under the scientific guidance of Academicians of the USSR Academy of Sciences A. Prokhorov, B. Bunkin, E. Velikhov, teams headed by Professor L. Zakhariev, Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences V. Glukhikh, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences V. Pismenny, as well as with the participation of other research institutes and the design bureau created the first samples of equipment for ground and airborne laser weapon systems for thermal destruction of objects.
The developers of these two variants of KLO faced a number of complex scientific and technical problems, on the solution of which the fate of the projects depended. Among them, the creation of a laser with the required power level and radiation quality; means of formation of radiation into a narrowly directed beam to ensure a high density of radiation energy at a great distance from the SC. It was necessary to develop fundamentally new methods for determining the parameters and characteristics of laser weapons, for example, the radiation energy density on a burning element of an aerodynamic target exposed to radiation.
In the process of creating a ground-based laser complex, which went with some time ahead, special multi-motor power drives were first proposed, which ensured acceptable smooth operation and, together with high-precision corrective drives, good tracking and guidance accuracy. An information system with a high angular resolution, a wide-aperture shaping system, and a semi-automatic alignment system have been developed and successfully tested. Fundamentally new methods of field tests were applied, including target support, a complex of measuring and recording equipment was created. And most importantly: in the course of development and testing, powerful teams of specialists were formed. In addition, the results of work on one complex were successfully used in work in a different way.
All this allowed "Almaz" to create together with the TANK im. G.B. Beriev on the A-60 aircraft flying laboratory with a laser complex and lift it into the air in August 1981. And less than 3 years later, in the early morning of April 27, 1984, the first in the Soviet Union thermal damage to an air target by an aviation laser complex occurred.
On April 20, 1984, an air target was hit by the domestic aircraft-based Ladoga laser system installed on the A-60 aircraft. This occurred after 11 months after a similar experiment conducted in the US, 31 May 1983 when the ALL complex with gasdynamic CO2 laser with a power of 400 kW, placed on the plane KC-135 was hit by a rocket "air-to-air" "Sidewinder".
The basic aircraft to create a flying laboratory was the Il-76MD (USSR-86879), which in the interest of the deployment of the special equipment deep refinement were made, greatly changing the appearance of the aircraft. In the nose was a bulbous fairing with special aerodynamic data equipment. Obviously, there is housed antenna aiming to turn in all directions, catching the target. On the lower sides of the fuselage, fairings are a unique power system with turbine generators work special. Due to the high power consumption also had to replace a mat. Cargo hatch doors were removed and the hatch closed with stitches. In was neccessary to modify the doors and rear emergency exits.
Originally it was decided that the deployment of the laser gun should not spoil the aerodynamics of the aircraft with another fairing, so the optical head of the laser was made retractable. On the top of the fuselage between the wings and the tail a hole was cut and replaced by a huge flap, consisting of several segments.
The flying laboratory «1A» raised in the air for the first time on 19 August 1981, with a crew led by pilot-test EA Lahmostovym. From 1983 to 1987 were conducted flight tests and studied the spread of radiation in the atmosphere using a laser installation weighing about 60 tons on the Il-76MD (A-60) flying laboratory. In 1984, the A-60 successfully struck an aerial target by laser. About the tests performed with this domestic military laser little is known because they remain secret. The only that it is possible to say that was performed several dozen operations against a target stratospheric balloon, located at altitudes of 30-40 km. Also implemented was target shooting against a La-17 radio-controlled target drone, a single engine jet monoplane.
An unenviable fate, according to some accounts, awaited this machine. The aircraft soon burned utterly at the air base Chkalovsk (GK NII VVS (State Red Banner Scientific Testing Institute of the Air Force), in the Moscow area). Some sources claimed that the cause of the fire was spilled "internal use" alcohol mixture used to cool the laser.
On 29 Aug, 1991, the crew led by pilot-test VP Demyanovskim, took off the second flying laboratory, named «1A2» (with the same b/n RA-86879). At its board located a new version of a special set of modified as a result of tests carried out on «1A». Probably this was another A-60 aircraft, which in 1993 stood at Taganrog prepared for modification. Chief Designer - Deputy General Designer TANTK on this topic is the N. Stepanov.
Work on the flying laboratory «1A2» for the improvement and modification of a special compound and its systems were said to be continuing to the present. In 1993, work on the aircraft and laser range ceased, but in 10 years they continued to OCD "Falcon-Echelon". Chief Designer and Deputy General Designer of the BERIEV AIRCRAFT COMPANY on this topic is N. A. Stepanov.
On August 28, 2009, the program implemented an integrated experiment, in which the laser beam when pointing from the Flying Lab a-60 on a spacecraft with flight altitude 1500 km was registered by the reflected signal. Lasers for the A-60 were used in experiments on glare and temporary disable optical systems for all types of satellite orbits.
The Americans recognized the successes of Russian laser scientists, and it would be unreasonable to give up further studies, Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said in 2010. “The same function is better performed by several types of weapons to make your system more stable. If suddenly the enemy finds some ways to confront one type of weapon, or for some reason it could not be used, it is always better to have a replacement. Therefore, in my opinion, it is silly to give up those weapons and technologies, where even your potential opponent is highly appreciative of what you have,” he said to a radio station.
However, Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of National Defense magazine, did not agree with this opinion, and did not see any sense in this equipment. According to him, it is unlikely to be used in practice. “Even if Russia sets such goal as the creation of a laser airborne, you must understand that we will have to deliver this laser through the airspace of the United States. And there, when ballistic missiles will be thrown at us, we will have to try to destroy them at the start stage. Clearly, all our aircrafts will be shot down.”
And if in practical terms of combat use the laser equipment will be meaningless, there is no need to divert funds from the really important and necessary programs, he says. According to the expert, it must be admitted that the money spent on the creation of the laser will not bring profit and will not exacerbate the country's defense. “There are two factors in developing such systems,” he said “It is the presence of the engineering technological capability and financial resources. Today, only the U.S. can afford such expensive programs. In Russia, there are no conditions for this,” Therefore, from a practical point of view, the implementation of such a program under budgetary constraints in the defense complex will be absolutely unnecessary and ruinous, explained Korotchenko.
The US Airborne Laser (ABL) program was killed by the defense secretary in the general slashing of missile defense to reduce the budget of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) by $1.4 billion in 2010. The Airborne Laser was redeisgnated the "Airborne Laser Test Bed" [ALTB] which was officially killed on Feb 16th 2012. The aircraft was decommissioned.
Work on Russian the project was suspended in 2011, due to lack of funding. Equipment from A-60 was partially dismantled.
In 2012, the funding was renewed. About modernization of the aircraft will be the whole year 2013 provided stable funding. In parallel with the Almaz-Antes "would be fitting new blocks more powerful laser installation. Laser 1LK222 is the Foundation of the whole system of counteraction to aerospace forces. The system has the code name "Falcon-Echelon" and designed by the Almaz-antey and CB «Himpromavtomatika». "Northerners" are by the laser, and Muscovites, command and control systems. Experiments with individual units and systems are not undermined, and in fact the laser is ready to land, according to the companies.
The new Russian combat aircraft A-60 will be able to destroy enemy targets with precision laser. This was announced on 24 September 2016 by Vladimir Mikheev, the First Deputy General Director of Concern "Radio-electronic technology" (KRET - part of Rostec), which developed the airborne defense. "It would have precision navigation, as to the narrow beams of the aircraft weapons strikes targets, the crew must accurately determine the aircraft's position", - said Mikheyev.
According to Mikheev, A-60 weapons will be so powerful that it will have to defend itself. "We understand that the avionics of the aircraft must be further developed under the tasks for which it is intended Since the aircraft will be on board power lasers, we need to protect all the aircraft life support system from the effects of their own weapons.", - He explained. According to the expert, on any aircraft avionics produced the vast majority of KRET. The new aircraft is a highly specialized, so the board will be a powerful system power and protection against enemy electronic effects.
In addition, Mikheyev said, "this plane will have a very powerful on-board defense system, as the most modern means of destruction will be focused on it." "I think it will set a combined complex with elements of electronic warfare" Vitebsk "," Khibiny "and a number of other systems for effective protection", - he added.
According to media reports, the project is implemented within the framework of development work "Falcon Echelon". Earlier, a source in the defense industry said that Russia is working on aircraft equipped with a new generation of laser weaponry. According to him, it is a plane, known open source under the symbol A-60.
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