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Russia says its deploying laser weapons to destroy drones, blind satellites over Ukraine

A Russian Peresvet laser weapon system. (Ministry of Defense of Russia/Released)
May 18, 2022

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov announced on Wednesday that Russian forces will begin using laser weapons to shoot down enemy drones and blind satellites aiding Ukrainian forces against the invading Russians. U.S. satellites could be targeted in the effort.

During a live broadcast on Russia’s state-run Channel One tv-station, Borisov said the Russian military has already begun fielding laser weapons such as the Zadira and Peresvet systems with Russian forces in Ukraine.

“They [laser weapon systems] have begun arriving [for the army],” Borisov said, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported. “The first types are already being employed [in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine].”

Borisov said the Peresvet system is capable of blinding reconnaissance satellites 1,500 km (about 932 miles) away.

Borisov said the Zadira system is an even more powerful laser than Peresvet. While the Peresvet can blind satellites, Borisov said the Zadira is primarily intended to physically destroy objects like UAVs, shining a focused beam that literally causes drones to burn up.

Borisov said Zadia is capable of “easily shooting down various types of drones” which will avoid Russian forces having to expend more costly missiles from systems like the Pantsyr and Tor surface-to-air missile launchers.

The Russian official announced the deployment of these laser weapons as Ukrainian forces have increasingly relied on drones to track the movements of Russian invasion forces, guide artillery strikes against them, and even deliver their own strikes on Russian targets.

Ukrainian forces have repeatedly attributed strikes on Russian combat forces to imported Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 combat drones. While some social media users claimed Russian forces destroyed all of Ukraine’s Bayraktar drones in the opening hours of their invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian side has continued to attribute successful strikes against Russian forces to still-active Bayraktar drones.

Ukrainian forces have also been observed using modified commercial-quality drones to carry and drop grenades and other improvised explosives on Russian troops.

It’s not entirely clear what role satellites have played in assisting Ukraine’s forces in the fight against the invading Russians. Several U.S. media outlets have published reports, citing unnamed U.S. officials who have claimed the U.S. has provided intelligence that has helped Ukrainian forces strike Russian targets, including high-ranking military officers, a transport plane carrying hundreds of troops and even the Russian warship Moskva.

One unnamed U.S. official told the Washington Post that the U.S. provided “maritime awareness” about Moskva. It is unclear if the official was referring to satellite intelligence detailing the Russian missile cruiser’s position or some other means of locating the ship entirely.

The U.S. military has officially denied providing Ukraine with information about the location of Russia’s generals. Earlier this month Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said “the United States provides battlefield intelligence to help Ukrainians defend their country, and we’ve talked about that quite a bit.  We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.”