In the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was pushing his Strategic Defense Initiative, the Pentagon successfully tested a relatively weak laser weapon installed on board a refurbished KC-135 fuel tanker jet. In 1985, a land-based laser gun successfully destroyed a sitting mock-up of a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile.
After over a decade on hold, the programme was revived as part of America’s efforts to build a global missile defence system. A Boeing YAL-1 plane came into being, armed with a laser target acquisition system and a laser gun. However, experimentation with it had to be put on hold due to prohibitive costs. In 2012, the YAL-1 jet was pensioned off and put in a depot of unwanted aerial vehicles.
Then why has Russia revived its laser gun project? The answer is as follows. Unlike the scrapped American system, which was designed to destroy hostile missiles at launch, the Russian laser weapon is designed to destroy incoming missiles and jets, which is immensely more realistic, both technologically and financially. In preventing hostile launches, Russia continues to rely on its deterrence capability. A nuclear attack on it would trigger global annihilation.