Russia Deploys New Ground-Based Laser Weapon

Very little is known about the Peresvet laser weapon system other than that it exists.

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Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia’s Army has received its first laser combat weapon. The Peresvet high-energy laser weapon was declared operational on December 1, 2018. Key details about the laser, including its power and even purpose are still a mystery, with Moscow declaring it is “not time yet” for details.

According to the state-owned TASS news agency, Peresvet firing units began being delivered to Russian Army units in 2017. The weapons appear trailer-mounted, normally concealed inside an armored shroud. The system looks similar to the U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS) on the warship USS Ponce in 2017.

Peresvet was announced by Russian president Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2018. The name was chosen by Russian citizens after a round of online voting. , another Russian state media source, Alexander Peresvet was “a famous warrior monk who fought at the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo, which ended the Mongol domination of medieval Russia.”

Details about Peresvet are lacking, including: We have no idea how it finds targets, the wattage output of the laser (the U.S. Army expects to field a 50-kilowatt laser weapon in 2023) or even what the targets are. What it is destined to shoot is ultimately a function of its power—a lower-powered laser would only be useful for burning small drones and blinding electro-optical devices (including human eyeballs), while a more powerful laser would be dangerous to larger drones and small manned aircraft.

Sputnik, also a media outlet under Russian government control, published a short Russian Ministry of Defense video showing off the new laser system.

The nearly minute-long video consists entirely of Peresvet slowly emerging from behind a barrier, a hand on a joystick, and the laser retreating behind the barrier again. Another video distributed by state-run RT, shows at least two Peresvet systems in a convoy.

In March, Putin discussed the laser weapon system and stated, “I do not want to reveal more details. It is not the time yet. But experts will understand that with such weaponry, Russia’s capacities for defending itself have multiplied."

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