Russian armed forces used a laser weapon against a drone in Ukraine, the Kremlin Deputy Prime Minister told a local television channel on Wednesday.
“Our physicists have developed and are now mass-producing laser systems,” said Yuri Borisov, adding that this system used in Ukraine destroyed the drone “in five seconds”.
This is the first time Borisov, a senior civilian official who oversees Russia’s defense sector, has said a new weapon has been used in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that the assertion reflected Moscow’s desire to find an alternative to missiles. According to Zelenskyy, Russia has fired more than 2,000 missiles since the invasion began on February 24, with the majority hitting civilian infrastructure and providing no strategic military advantage.
Borisov seemed to admit this, noting that a laser weapon offered economic advantages over the use of the expensive missiles fired by his Tor and Pantsir anti-aircraft systems.
A senior US defense official said on Wednesday that the United States had seen nothing to corroborate Russia’s claims that it used laser weapons in Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military assessment.
The laser system, which would have been on an armored truck, was nicknamed Zadira, which loosely translates to “Bully” in English. Defense officials first discussed the weapon at the Army 2017 defense exhibition in Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contact in August 2017 with the Russian Federal Nuclear Center for research and development of the Zadira-16. The center, based in Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod region, is part of Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corp. and is known for producing the first Soviet-era nuclear bomb.
Russia also claims to have another laser system in its arsenal, called Peresvet, named after an ancient Russian warrior. Moscow has been tight-lipped about the system, but Borisov noted that the main difference between the two is that Peresvet “blinds” an enemy system, while Zadira destroys it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin first spoke about Peresvet in his State of the Nation address in March 2018. He said then that by creating such complex technology, Russia was “several steps ahead”. on other countries.
“Any armed conflict is used to test etc. new weapons and equipment, overtly or covertly, and the conflict in Ukraine is certainly no exception,” said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center for the Analysis of strategies and technologies. in Moscow, Defense News said.
During the current war, Ukraine used Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, which proved effective against Russian tanks. Russia’s answer to the TB2 fleet is its Okhotnik combat drone, which is expected to be delivered to the Russian military by 2023, Sergey Chemezov, the head of defense conglomerate Rostec, told Putin on May 18 during a a televised meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.