Since the invention of all the things mankind immediately thinks about the possibility of its use for military purposes. No exception, and lasers. Attempts to create an effective laser weapon, in which a focused beam of light will be the main damaging element, yet were not successful. There are only prototypes and prototypes. However, military scientists and inventors trying to create the weapon of the future, so familiar to us fantastic movies.
If you do not go into technical details, the laser is a device for transformation of energy from special lamps by means of a system of lenses and crystals in a very thin focused stream of radiation. In 1954, scientists from the USSR were able to invent the first microwave generator. Four years later the American Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first optical quantum generator — laser. And just five years after its invention in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Nobel laureate Nikolai Basov was launched the development of laser weapons high power.
Before scientists had the task to create a weapon capable of shooting down a ballistic missile approaching the target by destroying its head part. The project was named «Terra» and was tested on the ground Sary-Shagan on the shores of lake Balkhash. The programme built a working install, have tested, but reach the specified characteristics without creating spitzenreiter and failed. The project lasted until the nineties and was discontinued due to lack of funding.
On the water
Existed in the Soviet Union and the attempt to create an Autonomous laser weapons on the basis of «Dixon». On the ship assembled and tested a laser installation titled «the Theme of «Aydar», who was to become the most powerful Autonomous military laser that time. The project cost huge money, as always required a lot of expensive components. Experts who worked on the laser, even gave him a comic called «goldfish». The number and complexity of the work performed is impressive. For example, to install on a ship of 400 cylinders for compressed air, the shipbuilders had to completely remove the metal trim from both sides.
Later it turned out that the result of the shot will stand out a lot of hydrogen which can explode. To avoid its accumulation, had to have a special powerful ventilation. The upper deck of the ship was designed so that it could open up into two parts. As a result, the body lost strength, and it had further strengthened. The power of the vessel was missing, and in the hold of additionally placed three jet engine from the Tu-154 to generate the energy required to pump the laser. It again demanded improvements of the cooling system and ventilation.
First shot laser installation of the ship «Dikson» was produced in 1980. On tests with her help was able to hit the target, but laser beam and damage to it could not see — only the temperature sensor showed that the shot hit the target. The power of the shot proved to be twenty times lower than claimed: it turned out that the laser loses its amazing properties due to water evaporation. Despite such epic fail, the test results are considered excellent, because initially the high power lasers developed for the space program. Although already then it became clear that to start the system of this scale in space had neither the means nor the technology.
In the air
Responsible for the space project «SKIF-DM» — vosmidesyatitonnye orbital laser battle platform. For comparison, the mass of the ISS, which is constantly being enriched by new modules and created by the efforts of several States, only five times more. For the first run was made of the mass-dimensional layout of the platform, equipped with a small (compared with the project) 100-kilowatt laser.
The launch of the facility took place on 15 may 1987. Two stage super-heavy launch vehicle Energia finished successfully. Using 460 seconds after the start of «SKIF-DM separated from the carrier rocket at a height of 110 kilometers. But there was an error in the result of the abnormal operation of the onboard systems of «SKIF» — he did not come into orbit and on a ballistic trajectory and fell into the Pacific ocean.
In 1987, the funding for the project was reduced, and subsequent runs were not conducted. Laser installation with a capacity of one megawatt were tested in air by means of a flying laboratory, created on the basis of transport aircraft Il-76MD. The laboratory was called A-60 and a break of the 1990s, the country continued exploring the use of laser weapons in the air and the vacuum of space. Work in the flying laboratory A-60 on improvement and modification of special complex and its systems are conducted and now on the basis of the airfield Pushkin in the Leningrad region.
Scientists ‘ next step was the implementation of laser weapons on ground, undercarriage. Self-propelled laser system to counter opto-electronic devices of the enemy 1К17 «Compression» developed in 1990 in the NGO «Astrophysics». The design was a system of laser running on multiple optical channels, and a power plant on the chassis self-propelled howitzer 2S19 «Msta-s». The tower had to be increased to accommodate opto-electronic equipment and self-contained auxiliary power unit for power generators. All together gave the system of counteraction to the optical devices of the enemy menacing and futuristic look.
Potential targets laser complex «Compression» tanks, self-propelled artillery and even low-flying helicopters. Having discovered the target by means of radar, the complex produced her laser probing, trying to find the optical equipment on glare lenses. Accurately localizing the «electronic eye», the camera was struck by his powerful laser pulse, blinding or burning sensitive element (a solar cell, image sensor or even the retina of the eye pricelevels fighter). The range of the laser is sensitive information. However, it is known that the previous version of the complex «Stiletto» — could hit targets at a distance up to ten kilometers, almost at any distance, which was visible to the object.
In a series of laser complex «Compression» did not go. The reason — high cost and complexity of application. On the only surviving copy can be viewed at the Military technical Museum in the village of Ivanovskoe.
1K17 «compression» — Russia and the Soviet self-propelled laser system to counter the opto-electronic devices of the enemy. Commercially not produced.
Speaking about the combat use of laser, not to mention the unique and one of a kind «Blaster» – laser pistol for cosmonauts. This is an experimental non-lethal weapons was invented in the Soviet Union in 1984, the military Academy of the strategic missile forces for armament astronauts. Basic requirements for «Blaster»: the inability to damage the hull of a ship that in space is deadly, at the same time effectively eliminate the imaginary enemy (American astronaut-spies) down.
The gun is a fiber laser optical pumping. The main problem for developers was to create a compact source of energy sufficient to pump the laser. The choice fell on a separate bulb with a pyrotechnic mixture and a tungsten-rhenium filament for her firing. As a mixture of zirconium foil is used, the oxygen and metal salt. The mixture burns within a few milliseconds due to the Zirconia, and gives a great amount of energy. After the flash bulb wilkepedia a gun sleeve, and in its place there next.
The energy obtained from combustion of the mixture is absorbed by the special optical fiber and is converted into the laser pulse. He is a weak, less than ten joules (comparable to the energy of the bullet from the pneumatic weapon), but it’s enough to incapacitate optical instruments or eye of the enemy. With eye contact of the laser beam gets irreversible damage to the retina. Blinding and burning action of the laser was confirmed at a distance of twenty meters. Fortunately, these weapons have not had to use even once, and the only instance that you just created is now in the Museum of the Academy of the strategic missile forces.
Laser gun with a pyrotechnic flash lamp (laser weapons-defense of individual astronauts) — Soviet pilot handheld laser non-lethal weapons, developed in 1984 by the design team of the Military Academy of the strategic missile forces. Designed to effectively incapacitate the sensitive elements of optical systems of the enemy — in terms of the spacecraft either in the open space in the melee — without the risk of damage to the lining or non-optical equipment and without recoil, not allowing the use of firearms etc. and kinetic weapons in space.
Digression to history of Russian laser weapons shows that an effective and inexpensive military devices we are unlikely to see in the coming years. There are several issues that have so far not managed to solve the inventors, and it is unclear whether it will be possible to do it in the near future.
Firstly, to pump the laser and it shot requires a large amount of energy consumed in the shortest time with low efficiency. For example, the unit «Dixon» required almost a day to produce one shot lasting less than a second. Currently, characteristics of laser weapons is better, but still far from required. In the result of combat lasers or powerful you want the engine running to make the shot, or the battery is not currently existing characteristics. The situation worsens by the fact that the efficiency of the laser is strongly affected by the environment — fumes, smoke or fog reduces the efficiency of the shot at times. Thus, even a slight change of weather can cause deterioration of the combat performance of the laser.
Secondly, due to the low efficiency of the after shot there will be a lot of thermal energy, which must take on the installation. This is a complicated and costly system, and portable laser systems greatly increases the weight. Moreover, heating the entire system slows down the ability to recharge the laser weapon to re a shot. The analysis of these challenges has forced the developers to abandon the use of laser weapons as small at this stage of the development of science and technology.
Now several countries are developing a mobile laser complexes with a capacity of only 10-20 kilowatts used instead of anti-tank guided missiles. Specifically against tanks, such systems are useless, but to hit soft-skinned vehicles within a few seconds, and the cooldown does not play a big role, the modern anti-tank installation is also can’t boast.
While basic science will not be able to solve the above basic problems in the use of lasers, weapons based on it will be only in works of fiction and museums. However, the lasers in actual combat use, and very effective: as range finders, targeting systems and targeting. In all these instances the compact, low-power laser systems.
There are other options for the use of lasers in the military. For example, airborne defense «President-s», designed to protect aircraft and helicopters from hitting all types of anti-aircraft guns. For the discovery of threats and counter attacking means in the «President-S» also uses a laser — multi-spectral source of radiation, which allows to fool the missile guidance system of most types. Complex works automatically, informing about detected and reflected the threats. In the recent conflict in Syria, the Russian helicopters videoconferencing was completed this complex defense, and despite the presence of the enemy man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems, losses from fire from the ground were recorded. Quite possibly, this is a great merit «of the President.»
Currently laser weapons, striking the opponent with a focused beam of light, remains a fiction. Existing prototypes rather show the complexity and lack of effectiveness of combat lasers. Without major scientific breakthroughs in the near future we are unlikely to see passage of arms into blasters and ray guns. However, lasers remain an important tool in the military, however, are applied not as it is depicted in «Star wars». Spectacular laser swords, cutting the enemy in half, remain subject only to the Directors.