It appears that Russia is building a laser system to "blind" the opponent's satellites

It appears that Russia is building a laser system to blind the opponent's satellites

Russia is said to be working on a new generation anti-satellite system in complete secrecy. A device positioned on the top of Mount Chapal, in the North Caucasus, inside a monitoring station known as Krona (corona). Once completed, it should allow to destroy the optical components of the reconnaissance satellites that pass through Russian territory, hitting them with a very powerful laser beam. The news is a survey published by The Space Review last week, which reconstructed the progress of the project using material collected on the network, and the most recent photographs of the construction site taken by Google Earth satellites.

Electro-optical warfare The documents collected by the investigation allow us to reconstruct the genesis of a program renamed Kalina, described as a laser system for electro-optical warfare (or "electro-optical warfare"). similar, developed or designed in recent decades, is the suspicion that the beam fired by Kalina is not designed to temporarily overload or obscure the optical sensors of enemy satellites (a capability called "dazzling"), but rather to damage them more or less permanently ( blinding), completely depriving the opponent of strategically invaluable space infrastructures.

The area where it is believed to be under construction. ion the new Russian anti-satellite weapon is located in the immediate vicinity of a structure rather known to the world astronomical community: the special observatory for astrophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which houses the gigantic radio telescope Ratan - 600 made famous even among the non insiders from the identification of an alleged alien signal in 2015 (which later turned out to be a terrestrial rebound signal).

A project that comes from afar As the translator and history enthusiast of the Soviet space program Bart Hendrickx reconstructs in his investigation, Krona is a site dedicated to the surveillance of foreign spy satellites built in the 1970s but only became operational in the early 2000s. Until now it was equipped with a traditional radar system and a lidar, a detection system that combines an optical telescope and a laser telemetry device, known as Lol ("laser optical locator"), with which It is possible to calculate the position of the satellites that pass over Russian territory in the low and high Earth orbit, and if necessary, provide the coordinates to the anti-satellite systems (the traditional ones, which use missiles designed to hit targets in orbit). br>
Kalina is about to be added to these two systems, a project born in 2011 and plagued by many delays, whose construction only really started in 2019. Thanks to the images taken by Google Earth, Hendrickx was able to identify the first signs of the new construction site in August 2019, and then to confirm the progress of the works in the following years, with the most recent image dating back to March of this year. , in which we see a complete new structure connected to the one that houses the Lol lidar.

According to the reconstruction carried out by Hendrix, the new system will be equipped with its own optical telescope, necessary to obtain clear images with which to aim to the optics of the target satellite, where the laser produced in the central structure of Lol will be conveyed through a tunnel, and then pointed where required using a system of mirrors positioned inside the telescope itself. Whether it is a system dedicated to counter-espionage, and in particular to the destruction of enemy satellites, is confirmed by various documents in which a "laser for electro-optical warfare" is defined, or even a system for "functional suppression" of components electro-optics of satellites.

Space war For Russia, the fight against observation satellites seems to have become almost an obsession in recent years. For decades, all the great powers have developed anti-satellite systems, based on missiles of various kinds, which make it possible to eliminate any orbital dangers. But it is a last resort, which is impossible to hide, and difficult to justify, its use. So much so that, to date, none of these systems have ever been used, except in the test phase or for the decommissioning of their own satellites.

An anti-satellite energy weapons system has many advantages in this sense. It can be used with discretion, then denying what happened, and has a low cost of use. Russia has had at least three in the pipeline in recent decades. The airborne Sokol Eshelon system, which has been talked about since 2001, and which does not yet seem to have given the desired results. Kalina, whom we have talked about so far. And the Peresvet system, the only currently operational of the three, truck-mounted and intended to be used in tandem with mobile ICBM launch systems, whose tracks it is supposed to cover during operations.

Obviously, the Russians are not alone in carrying out this research. On the contrary: over our heads an authentic ghost war now seems to be in full swing. In an article last year in the Washington Post, an anonymous high-ranking general of the American Space Force told of a sabotage activity in the ever-growing American satellite system. Attacks with reversible effects (which do not permanently damage satellite hardware) are now on the agenda by major rivals from the United States, Russia and China. The weapons used: lasers (field in which China would be the real vanguard), radio frequency jammers, cyberattacks.

Among the targets there would be not only military satellites, but also private networks such as that of the much criticized mini satellites of the Starlink constellation of Space X. Musk warned in May of Russian attempts to block signals from his satellites, with which he is providing internet coverage in Ukraine during the conflict. And even the Chinese now seem to have a keen interest in neutralizing the Starlink network, accused of being a fundamental asset for the US military, both in terms of communications and video surveillance.

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