Back in 1981, when Reagan was preparing to spend the Soviet Union into the ground, the U.S. developed an Airborne Laser Laboratory that could bring down missiles and planes with high-density rays.
Never willing to be outdone, the Soviets launched the Beriev A-60, a jumbo-jet with a laser cannon installed in the nose.
Only two Beriev’s were ever completed and U.S. intelligence officials never grew concerned as one was destroyed and the other was put into storage without so much as a test flight.
A few years ago, the Russians dusted the wings off of the stored plane and renewed their modifications.
According to The Space Review, the new design lacks the nose cannon of its predecessor and has its laser mounted up away from the earth and directed toward space (via Danger Room).
Danger Room also points to a statement issued by the Russians last year that says they’re developing an “air-laser system designed to transmit laser energy to remote sites in order to counter the infrared opto-electronic tools of the enemy.”
A large bulge on the back of the craft is an overhead port that opens to deploy the 1-megawatt laser turret with a range of 190 to 370 miles.
An aviation photography team from Russian Planes was able to pick up the the insignia on the laser-equipped jet that shows a tapering red beam shooting into space at the Hubble Telescope. The Hubble represents U.S. satellites, and it’s path of motion is blacked out over Russia (see picture above).
The concept of directing a laser at orbiting assets is nothing new. In 2006, China hit American satellites with lasers from a ground based installation, possibly blinding them.