Russian Military Outposts
Laser Beam Array Terra 3
Sary Shagan, Kazakhstan
45°50'53.80"N, 73°31'03.50"E

Laser Beam Array Terra 3
By rambo54

The Sary Shagan Terra-3 testbed included a high- energy ruby laser and a high-energy CO2 laser. Vympel was primarily responsible for the overall concept and design of Terra-3, but the lasers were developed by Astrofizika. One of Terra-3's first operational uses was conducted in 1984 at the insistence of Defence Minister Dmitri Ustinov, who was concerned that the US space shuttle was being used as a reconnaissance platform. On 10 October 1984, on the 13th Challenger mission, the US space shuttle was tracked by the Terra-3 laser at low power while being directed by the 5N24 Argun phased-array radar at the Sary Shagan PVO site. This caused malfunctions on the space shuttle and distress to the crew, leading to a formal US diplomatic protest. In 1989, US scientists were allowed to inspect one of the associated laser sensors of the Terra-3 complex that was used to aim the main beams. Although the complex provided the Soviet programme with considerable detail about laser interaction with typical ICBMs and re-entry vehicles, Terra-3 did not prove practical as a weapon.....

sadly enough the complex is meanwhile (2008) destroyed and removed...



American Team Gets Close Look At Soviet Laser

By BILL KELLER, Special to The New York Times
Published: Sunday, July 9, 1989

Down a potholed road here in the forlorn steppes of Soviet Central Asia lies a shabby cluster of concrete buildings that has loomed large in the lore of the Pentagon.

The unimposing compound houses a laser research center once billed by the United States Defense Department as the fearsome core of the Soviet anti-missile ''Star Wars'' program.

Today a group of 10 Americans, including two physicists, three members of Congress and two journalists, were the first foreigners allowed inside this testing ground to view what the Soviets have always maintained was an innocent research program. Monument to Pentagon

After exploring the installation from its basement electrical circuitry to its 20-year-old transisterized computers to the laser once billed by the American intelligence agency as an operable antisatellite weapon, members of the American delegation said the complex was less a menace than a monument to Pentagon public relations.

''It seems to me it pretty clearly is not a power laser and doesn't represent any threat as a weapon,'' said Representative Jim Olin, Democrat of Virginia, a former electrical engineer for the General Electric Company.

''If they wanted to have an antisatellite program, this research - locating and tracking objects in space - is certainly applicable,'' he added. ''But it sure doesn't look like a beam weapon.''

''What it looks like is a Potemkin village built by the Pentagon,'' said S. Jacob Scherr, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based group that lobbies for disarmament and the environment. Campaign of Glasnost

The tour of Sary-Shagan, a destination Western arms experts have longed to know more about, was perhaps the most remarkable development yet in a Soviet campaign of ''military glasnost,'' aimed at promoting President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's initiatives by opening some of the military's tantalizing secrets to the outside.

On Friday the visiting Americans were the first outsiders to set foot in the Kyshtym nuclear complex, a closed area in the Ural Mountains where the Soviet Union has produced plutonium for its nuclear weapons since 1948. That visit was a promotion for Mr. Gorbachev's proposal to ban further production of weapons-grade plutonium.

Accompanied by a cadre of American physicists, the group spent last Wednesday conducting radiation tests aboard a Soviet Navy cruiser in the Black Sea, a venture intended to demonstrate the possibility of arms control at sea.

Yevgeny P. Velikhov, a vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and organizer of the tour, said Mr. Gorbachev personally approved the visits. #2 American Physicists The American visitors included two physicists, two members of the House Armed Services Committee and an aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee. None of the Americans were specialists in lasers, and the excursion to the laser center was arranged at the last minute, leaving no opportunity for the group to consult experts before leaving the United States.

Sary-Shagan has been an object of American interest since at least 1984, when the Pentagon first published a sketch based on satellite photographs of the compound.

In 1985, the Defense and State Departments - in the midst of an aggressive campaign to justify President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative - published a booklet identifying this remote spot as the heart of an ''ominous'' laser weapons research and development program.

''The directed energy R & D site at Sary-Shagan proving ground included ground-based lasers that could be used in an antisatellite role today and possibly a ballistic missile defense role in the future,'' the document asserted. Extra Money for Pentagon

Representative John M. Spratt Jr., Democrat of South Carolina and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said even then American intelligence experts had serious doubts about the menace of the laser center because they saw no evidence of a power large enough to produce the jolt required for laser weaponry. Mr. Spratt said they confined their doubts to classified briefings.

''It's incredible to think that the Pentagon S.D.I. folks probably got an extra $10 billion because of this place,'' said Frank Von Hippel, a Princeton University physicist who toured Sary Shagan today.

In the last year or so, the American Star Wars program has been scaled back and the Pentagon now describes Sary Shagan less certainly as a place where the Soviets ''are believed to be developing several lasers for strategic applications.''

Defense Department interest has shifted to another reported Soviet laser installation near Dushanbe, the capital of Tadjikistan. Denial From Soviets

Soviet officials here denied that lasers at Dushanbe have weapons potential, but they declined to describe the center there in detail.

The officials also declined to discuss nonlaser activities at the vast proving ground here, which is the Soviet testing center for weapons designed to defend against long-range nuclear missile attacks.

In their landing at a military air strip and the half-hour bus ride to the laser center, the visitors saw rows of parked fighter and transport planes, ventilated bunkers that appeared to be ammunition storage dumps, and a tall phased-array radar presumably used to coordinate anti-missile defense tests, but no evidence of other laser sites.

Mr. Velikhov said the laser center was originally planned in the 1960's as a major space weapons development complex that would employ high-power lasers in an attempt to shoot ballistic missiles from space. Cavernous Concrete Shell

The grimmest of the three buildings at the site is a cavernous shell of concrete and steel plate that, in those early visions, was to house a huge laser powered by chemical explosions. Mr. Velikhov said the idea was abandoned after the 1972 Soviet-American treaty limiting anti-ballistic defenses, and the site became a modest research center.

Nikolai N. Shakhonsky, who was identified as the civilian head of the laser compound, described the two lasers on the site as a visible ruby laser installed in 1979, and a more powerful infrared, carbon dioxide laser added three years later.

He said the lasers were fired several times a month at airplanes fitted with special detectors, to study the behavior of lasers and their ability to track objects in space.

Tests aimed at a Soviet satellite -the most recent last August - proved the device was too clumsy to track objects in space, he said. The lasers'' hardware is being upgraded to improve precision and may be tested against satellite targets again, but with no increase in power.

Mr. Velikhov conceded that ''in principle'' information from this research could be useful in designing a weapon to disable American satellites.

The visitors were led along the stained linoleum corridors of the four-story main building to inspect the ruby laser, receivers, transmitters and telescope and - on demand - detoured to see the basement power supply.

They climbed above the rusted steel shell that shields the main beaming mirror to see the control booth where the lasers' aiming device is operated. They then visited the only other building, where the more powerful infrared laser is housed.

Maj. Gen. Yevgeny V. Tarasov, an official of the proving grounds who oversees the laser center, said it employed 200 people during peak periods, although today it appeared nearly deserted.

Soviet officials pointed to two features they said proved conclusively the lasers could not be used as weapons.

One was the laser's low power -about two kilowatts when the more powerful infrared laser leaves the aiming mirror, which Mr. Von hippel calculated would generate a ray roughly the intensity of a sunbeam, insufficient to damage an object in space.

The other was the reflecting mirror used to focus the infrared beam before it is deflected into space. About the size of a tea saucer and uncooled, it would not withstand a beam of great force, according to Peter V. Zarubin, a laser physicist from the Moscow Institute of Radio Electronics, who said he often travels to Sary-Shagan for research on laser radars.

The visitors with technical backgrounds said the equipment seemed to conform to the description.

Asked about the Defense Department's more threatening version of Sary-Shagan, General Tarasov said he was familiar with Pentagon descriptions of Soviet military programs, and generally admired them.

''As a rule, you know more about our activities than the Soviet people do,'' he said, adding that excessive secrecy had contributed to growing public skepticism of the military here.

''In this case, you exaggerated,'' he said. ''But that's okay. We write the same kind of things about you.''

SOURCE: New York Times

The Myth of the Soviet 'Killer' Laser

By Frank von Hippel and Thomas B. Cochran
Published: Saturday, August 19, 1989
Frank von Hippel is professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University. Thomas B. Cochran is senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

he Defense Department has for years argued that the Soviet Union is way ahead in the development of ground-based lasers that can knock out satellites.

The department has pointed in particular to a facility at Sary Shagan in Kazakhstan, which was alleged to contain a laser weapon that ''could be used in an antisatellite role today and possibly a ballistic-missile defense role in the future.''

We visited this facility in early July and found some very ordinary lasers. Their beams were 1,000 times less powerful than those of the Mid-infrared Chemical Laser (MIRACL) at the Strategic Defense Initiative's White Sands, N.M., proving ground. Thus the department's representation of the ''laser gap'' - like the bomber gap and the missile gap before it - seems to have been the reverse of the truth. What can we learn from the explosion of this myth?

The first lesson is for the Soviets, whose pathological secrecy allowed the myth of the Soviet ''killer'' laser to flourish as a Defense Department fund-raising device for more than five years. To deflate the campaign, they needed only to open up the Sary Shagan facility and reveal the paltriness of its lasers.

Their long delay has provided the rationale for a major U.S. investment in anti-satellite and anti-ballistic missile programs that the Soviets may feel compelled to match.

This week's Soviet demonstration to American experts of a high-power gas laser is another encouraging sign that Moscow is bringing glasnost to the new Soviet national security strategy. The laser was fired at a laboratory that, like Sary Shagan, previously had been off limits to foreigners.

The second lesson - for the U.S. -concerns the importance of having unbiased sources of information as a basis for national security policy.

As we learned after our return, the capabilities of the Soviet laser facility had been hotly disputed within the intelligence community for a number of years. The assessment of the Central Intelligence Agency was apparently consistent with what we found.

The uncertainties about what kind of laser was actually at Sary Shagan was apparently acknowledged by the intelligence experts in secret briefings. Defense Department officials, however, decided to present only a worst-case assessment in the agency's unclassified publications.

These misleading publications became part of the conventional wisdom - even to some extent in the minds of many who had received C.I.A. briefings - and had an important influence on Congressional budgetary decisions.

Any Congressman with more than a year's experience should know better than to rely on the Pentagon's representations of the ''Soviet threat,'' since military funding depends upon maximizing the dangers.

However, publications such as ''Soviet Military Power,'' which have so distorted the national policy making process, are underwritten by Congressionally approved funds. While it's important that such information be available to the public, Congress should insist upon publication by a less self-interested agency.

Congress will decide the future of anti-satellite weapons research when it takes up the defense authorization bill after Labor Day. The House bill includes a ban on testing the MIRACL laser and urges the Administration to negotiate a ban on all anti-satellite weapons. Since neither measure was included in the Senate version, the final decision will rest with a conference committee.

Clearly, Congress should not reward the Pentagon for inflating threats. To launch a new arms race in anti-satellite weapons would undermine our national security as much as the Soviet Union's.

SOURCE: New York Times

Copyright 1997 Jane's Information Group Limited,
All Rights Reserved
Jane's Intelligence Review

May 1, 1997

SECTION: EUROPE; Vol. 9; No. 5; Pg. 205

LENGTH: 2629 words


BYLINE: Steven J Zaloga


As far back as the late 1960s, scientists in the USSR had been secretly theorising about the possibilities of space-based weaponry. In the early 1980s, however, spurred by US President Ronald Reagan'sannouncement of the Strategic Defense Initiative and a firmconviction that the US space shuttle programme was geared toward military ends, Soviet efforts in this area took on a new importance.Steven J Zaloga tracks the Soviet side of 'Star Wars'.


Throughout most of the 1980s, the Soviet Union's political leadership spent a considerable amount of time denouncing the US Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly called 'Star Wars' after the George Lucas film released in 1977. This Soviet propaganda campaign was partly intended to hide the USSR's substantial effort to develop its own space-based weapon systems.

Recent Russian revelations provide some intriguing details on those efforts and what was one of the Soviet Union's most secret defence programmes. This short article cannot provide a comprehensive description of all Soviet work in this area, but it is intended instead to highlight some of the major projects that have until now been kept secret. There was also a key difference in the Soviet approach to space-based weaponry, for while the US Star Wars programme was primarily oriented towards defending against ballistic missile attack, the Soviet programme went further - towards destroying enemy satellites.

Soviet space strike weapons

The possible applications of new weapon technologies for revolutionary roles were of considerable interest in the Soviet scientific and defence community in the late 1960s. The initiative in this area came mainly from the Ministry for Radio Industry (Minradioprom), which had managed the development of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile (ABM) programme since the late 1950s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a series of discussions were held among representatives of the Academy of Science, the military scientific-research institutes (NIIs), industrial design bureaux (OKBs), and the Soviet General Staff on the issue of space weapons. The consensus that emerged was that a programme should be undertaken in two phases, codenamed Fon-1 (Background-1) and Fon-2. Fon-1 represented advanced concept and technology development including directed energy weapons, electro-magnetic rail guns, novel warhead technologies, new ABM missiles and space platforms for applications of these weapons. Fon-2 was intended to facilitate the transition of these technologies into the engineering-manufacturing development phase in order to field actual systems. The Fon-1 programme formally began around 1976, although work was already underway on basic research of many of the novel directed-energy technologies.

This programme was not unanimously supported, and it was vigorously opposed by some segments of the defence and industrial communities which viewed it as a waste of funding that would be better directed to more conventional types of weaponry. Among its opponents was Grigori Kisunko, the general designer of the initial Moscow ABM system. In 1976, a research effort connected with Fon-1 was initiated at OKB Kometa, the design bureau headed by A I Savin, which had developed the first Soviet anti-satellite (ASAT) system in the 1960s. OKB Kometa was given the task of proposing a system that could destroy 10,000 re-entry vehicles and cruise missiles in 5 to 25 minutes with a probability of destruction of 99.8 per cent. Kometa concluded that such a system was not practical for both technological and economic reasons. Nevertheless, Fon-1 continued to be funded, with much of the effort being devoted to ASAT missions rather than ballistic missile defence (BMD).

The rapid expansion of development work on space- based weapons reached such a point in the 1970s that the Ministry of Defence Production (MOP) was obliged to set up a new 8th Main Directorate specifically to manage these programmes and co-ordinate the various research institutes. On the industrial side, the programme was headed by Petr S Pleshakov of Minradioprom and overseen by a committee of the Military Industrial Commission (VPK) headed by Leonid V Smirnov.
In spite of the lack of satisfactory progress on many of these exotic technologies, the programme took on new importance in the early 1980s when US President Ronald Reagan announced the initiation of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The combination of the SDI programme and associated concerns over the militarisation of space (related to the development of the US Space Shuttle) convinced some elements in the Soviet General Staff that the USA was aiming to deploy a comprehensive array of 'space strike systems' capable not only of defending against incoming missile re-entry vehicles, the ostensible goal of SDI, but also of attacking Soviet objectives on land, air and sea. The Soviet Ministry of Defence was convinced that the Space Shuttle's primary orientation was for military rather than scientific missions.

As a result, in 1983 Yuriy Andropov ordered the transition of the Fon programme to the next phase, Fon-2, and considerably increased the funding as a result. The aim of Fon-2 was broadened somewhat from its original intent to include space-based strike systems and technologies to counter the US SDI effort. In parallel to this acceleration of the space strike programme, in August 1983 Andropov initiated a diplomatic initiative to reach an agreement with the USA to ban tests and deployment of any type of space-based weapons. The Soviet Union also announced a unilateral moratorium on orbiting any type of anti-satellite interceptor, even though efforts under Fon-2 were funding precisely such programmes.

Directed energy weapon development

A principal centre for work on Soviet laser weapons was the Luch Central Design Bureau (TsKB Luch) headed by Nikolai Ustinov, the son of the defence minister Dmitri Ustinov. During the 1970s, the Luch Design Bureau was reorganised into the NPO Astrofizika, which included other firms in this field including the Granat High Energy Laser Special Design Bureau. Nikolai Ustinov had originally been a designer in the KB-1 organisation (now NPO Almaz) specialising in anti-ballistic missile systems. After his father's death in 1984, he was ousted from control and replaced by Boris Chemodanov. NPO Astrofizika was responsible both for strategic laser weapons as well as tactical laser weapons mounted on aircraft, armoured vehicles and ships. NPO Astrofizika controlled a very large portion of the total Soviet budget for directed energy weapons, amounting to about 4 billion roubles from 1969-1989. To put this in some perspective, the official 1988 Soviet defence budget was 20 billion roubles, so Astrofizika's annual funding alone amounted to about 1 per cent of the public Soviet defence budget. Astrofizika constructed a free-electron laser prototype at Storozhevaya, a 1 MW gas laser at Troitsk near Moscow and collaborated on a major laser complex at the Sary-Shagan PVO Air Defence proving ground in Kazakstan. Most of these systems examined the possible anti-satellite role for directed energy weapons.

Besides NPO Astrofizika, the other major centre for the development of directed energy weapons was OKB Vympel (later TsNPO Vympel). OKB Vympel had originally been part of KB-1 until the early 1960s and was the Soviet Union's primary research centre for anti-ballistic missile research. It should not be confused with the air-to-air missile design bureau with the similar name. Vympel was primarily involved in ground-based laser weapons and in attempts to develop a UHF directed-energy weapon. In 1969, it began work on the Terra-3 programme, aimed at examining the weapon potential of high-energy lasers against ballistic missile re-entry vehicles. An experimental laser system was erected by TsNPO Vympel at the Sary-Shagan PVO Air Defence proving ground beginning in the early 1970s. Defence Minister Andrey Grechko first visited the site in 1973.

The Sary Shagan Terra-3 testbed included a high- energy ruby laser and a high-energy CO2 laser. Vympel was primarily responsible for the overall concept and design of Terra-3, but the lasers were developed by Astrofizika. One of Terra-3's first operational uses was conducted in 1984 at the insistence of Defence Minister Dmitri Ustinov, who was concerned that the US space shuttle was being used as a reconnaissance platform. On 10 October 1984, on the 13th Challenger mission, the US space shuttle was tracked by the Terra-3 laser at low power while being directed by the 5N24 Argun phased-array radar at the Sary Shagan PVO site. This caused malfunctions on the space shuttle and distress to the crew, leading to a formal US diplomatic protest. In 1989, US scientists were allowed to inspect one of the associated laser sensors of the Terra-3 complex that was used to aim the main beams. Although the complex provided the Soviet programme with considerable detail about laser interaction with typical ICBMs and re-entry vehicles, Terra-3 did not prove practical as a weapon.

Astrofizika and Vympel were supported by a wide range of smaller research institutes, such as the Scientific Research Institute for Thermal Processes (NIITP), which was developing high energy gas dynamic lasers for space-based applications, and the Scientific Research Institute for Radio Device Production (NII-Radiopriborostroeniya), which was developing plasma weapons. Much of the advanced research work was carried out by scientific institutions, including the Academy of Science's Physics Institute, the All-Union Scientific Institute for Power Engineering and Physics (VNIIEF) and the State Institute for Optics (GOI).

Space battle stations

The third major industrial organisation involved in these programmes was NPO Energia based in Kaliningrad. As the Soviet Union's foremost space development centre, Energia was given the task in 1976 of developing space-based platforms for novel weapon technologies. Energia co-ordinated the efforts of the other weapon design bureaux to make certain that their weapons were compatible with Energia's 'space strike systems'. In contrast to the US SDI programme, which was primarily oriented toward destroying re-entry vehicles in their boost phase, the Energia programme had a much broader range of space-based military missions. This was driven in part by the Soviet assessment of the military nature of the US space shuttle. The Soviets feared that the space shuttle was the central element in a new generation of space strike weapons and was viewed as a suitable platform for delivering weapons from space against targets on earth. Its second military role was assessed as being the delivery and support of combat spacecraft. It is not clear if this Soviet perception of the shuttle was due to a mistaken and paranoid assessment of actual US intentions for the space shuttle, or whether this view was a conscious ruse on the part of the Soviet Defence Ministry to win support for its own space strike systems, mirroring the imagined US space strike systems. In either case, the defence ministry remained the strongest backer of the Buran space shuttle effort in spite of reservations within the Russian civil space community, which feared that the Soviet Buran space shuttle would eat up too much of the civil space budget.

Energia's first programme was the development of a space battle station complex. This consisted of two different types of spacecraft sharing a common central module derived from the DOS-7K Salyut space station. One station was to be armed with a laser weapon and the other with autonomous-homing missiles. The battle stations were designed to carry enough fuel for manoeuvring into attack positions. Since the laser battle station required so much space for its power generation and other equipment, it could carry less fuel for manoeuvring. Consequently, the Soviet plan was to deploy a mixed force of these battle stations, with the missile-armed types deployed to attack satellites in low-earth orbit while the laser battle stations attacked targets in high and geo-synchronous orbits. This system could be left in orbit unmanned, although for high-intensity operations the stations could house a two-man crew for up to a week. These space strike systems were to be serviced by the new Buran space shuttle. The illustrations of the Energia space strike systems in this article are based on a recently released history published by the bureau.

As a forerunner to the Energia system, KB Salyut packaged a testbed laser system to be flown as part of the Polyus spacecraft in 1987. The Skif-DM module on the Polyus was a test-bed space-based laser system developed by the NIITP. The Polyus was flown on the first Energia space booster mission but failed to reach orbit.

Energia worked on two other space-based weapon systems. The first development was a small missile interceptor similar to the US Brilliant Pebbles concept. This small autonomous device was designed to intercept re-entry vehicles and destroy them using the kinetic energy of impact. It is not clear how these devices were to be deployed, whether by satellites, the Buran shuttle or by some form of earth-launched booster.

The final Energia project was the most elaborate space strike system envisioned. It consisted of a central battle station based around a DOS-7K space station module. To this was added a command module and a targeting module. The central battle station core played host to four or more 'combat modules'. These were derivatives of the Buran space shuttle, minus their wings. The combat modules could operate alone or in combat groups, could dock at the central station and would receive targeting data from the central control module. Their armament was expected to be ballistic missiles or unpowered nuclear glide bombs. The primary mission of the battle station was to attack high-value targets on earth. This system, which violated prevailing treaties on the militarisation of space, apparently did not proceed beyond design studies.

Although Energia was a major developer of space-based weapon systems, other design bureaux offered competitive alternatives. In the late 1970s the Chelomey OKB-52, now NPO Mashinostroyenie, proposed a space-based network of satellites armed with interceptors for attacking ballistic missile re-entry vehicles. Chelomey proposed using a version of the Spektr research satellite to form the basis for such a system, launched by his firm's Proton booster. The modified Spektr space platform would be armed with the Oktava interceptor device developed by OKB Kometa. Spektr was fitted with at least three types of sensors, Lira, Buton and Pion-K, which were designed to identify, track and discriminate the re-entry vehicles from decoys and missile-related debris as well as aim the Oktava prior to launch. The military Spektr programme was abandoned in 1992, although the original scientific Spektr programme continues under the direction of the Lavochkin design bureau.

Although no comprehensive history of the 'Red Star Wars' programme has yet been published in Russian, recent accounts have begun to make it possible to gain some impression of the direction and scope of this effort. It would appear that the Soviet Ministry of Defence was less sanguine about the technological possibilities of deploying a space- or ground-based BMD system and so devoted much more attention to ASAT missions than the United States. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Fon programme has lost most, if not all, of its funding.

Author Steven J Zaloga is a senior analyst with Teal Group Corp covering missile systems and arms export issues. He has written extensively on Russian missile development, including the 1989 Jane's book 'Soviet Air Defense Missiles: Design, Development, and Tactics'.

SOURCE: Jane's Intelligence Review

Sary Shagan, Kazakhstan
45°50'53.80"N, 73°31'03.50"E

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