Russia is developing two airborne anti-satellite systems, according to an article published in the Defense Ministry’s Military Thought journal on April 7.
The first system is based on the MiG-31D fighter and the Kontakt anti-satellite missile, while the second is a version of the Peresvet laser system installed on an Il-76 aircraft.
The article was co-authored by retired Lieutenant-General Alexander Kovalyov, President of the St. Petersburg branch of the Tsiolkovsky Cosmonautics Academy and former Chief of the Mozhaisky Military Space Academy who hold a doctorate in Technical Sciences,.
“Russian anti-satellite weapons being created on the basis of re-deployable and mobile carriers include the PKO Kontakt system based on the MiG-31 heavy fighter-interceptor, the A-60 Sokol-Echelon combat laser system based on the Il-76 transport plane and the Peresvet combat laser system,” the article says, according to the TASS news agency.
After the completion of the tests, the system based on the Il-76 aircraft can be mounted on a space platform where it will be powered to a nuclear reactor. “This is a ready-made combat module and a menace to enemy satellites,” it says.
The A-60 aircraft is a laser research plane produced by Beriev. Development started in 1981 with the laser installed in a special nose cone with a targeting system in 1983. During a test, the aircraft successfully hit an air target with a laser. A second A-60 was built in 1991.
The Sokol Eshelon project, which is based on the A-60 aircraft, started in 2003 and was first made public in the annual report of contractor Khimpromavtomatika in 2005.
Work on the Kontakt system began in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. The system involved the destruction of satellites and ballistic targets using a three-stage rocket with the 79M6 Kontakt kinetic interceptor launched from the MiG-31D fighter.
The first stage of the anti-attack was able to reach an altitude of 120-600 kilometers, the second – 1500 kilometers. The system involved the destruction of at least 24 satellites within 36 hours or 20-40 spacecraft in 24 hours.
Individual elements of the Kontakt were tested in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, development was frozen. Work on the system resumed in the 2000s.
The importance of anti-satellite capabilities became clear after the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine. Western intelligence gathering and communication satellites played a key role in the survival of Kiev’s command and control structure in the first few months of the operation.