Russia has a long history of grandiose announcements about futuristic weapons systems they claim are already in service. Russia’s military support of Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime, for instance, has granted Russia a number of marketing opportunities, including flights of their advanced (and extremely rare) Su-57 fighters for no reason other than to garner headlines in hopes of securing foreign sales. Other reports of the their Uran-9, a ground infantry robot that prompted comparisons to the movie “Terminator” when it first deployed to Syria were also later proven to be little more than propaganda, with the platform failing spectacularly during its short stint in the war-torn nation.
Then there was Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile, touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as unstoppable thanks to a nearly infinite range, that has failed to fly in every test. In fact, one such test over the summer failed so badly that Russian navy ships were dispatched to search for the missile when its nuclear power plant failed to engage and the missile was lost in the Barents Sea. It is unclear if they were ever successful in their pursuit. Russia has claimed to have everything from Predator-style cloaking devices to bipedal robots straight out of Robocop — and they don’t seem to be finished with their love affair with weapons technology they saw in movies from the 1980s — their most recent new weapon is a really powerful laser.
How powerful? They won’t say. What are its intended targets? They won’t say. How many are being built? They won’t say. What is its operational range? They won’t say. What will they say? Well, the word “laser”… a lot. They also littered in some technical sounding phrases and buzz words like “combat system” and “cutting edge weapon,” but if you were hoping to know how it stacks up against the U.S. Army’s 50-kilowatt laser system slated to deploy on Stryker combat vehicles in 2023, or the U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard the USS Ponce, you’re out of luck.
The secrecy, of course, could be a strategic decision. Much like America’s reluctance to even release the cost of the ongoing B-21 Raider program because a price point could allow for extrapolation as to the aircraft’s technological complexity and capability level, Russia might have one hell of a weapon on their hands and they may just not want to show their hand quite yet. It is possible… just unlikely, based on Russia’s past marketing endeavors and its anemic economy that continues to stifle defense spending across the board.