TWO ‘Super Weapons’ That Even USA Lacks – Is Russia’s Use Of Laser Weapons, Hypersonic Missiles Just A Propaganda?

Russia has sent shockwaves by claiming that its military had used the two ‘most sophisticated’ weapons in Ukraine that even the US and its powerful western allies do not possess, i.e., Hypersonic Missiles & Laser Weapons.

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After becoming the first country to use a hypersonic weapon in combat, Russia recently revealed that it was using laser weapons to burn down enemy drones in Ukraine.

However, doubts have persisted in the West about the prowess of these weapon systems, with officials in the United States either downplaying their ability to destroy a target or dismissing them as mere propaganda.

In a noteworthy testimony, the US Northern Command chief Air Force General Glen VanHerck recently submitted before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that Russia’s most advanced missile weapons were proving to be ineffective in the fight with Ukraine.

The Russians have “had challenges with some of their hypersonic missiles as far as accuracy” was concerned. He further concluded by saying that the missiles were “underperforming.”

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A Pentagon report released earlier had revealed that Russia had fired at least a dozen hypersonic missiles on Ukraine; however, there has been no official acknowledgment by Russia on the numbers.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal - Wikipedia
Kh-47M2 Kinzhal – Wikipedia

On March 19, Russia claimed that its ‘Kinzhal’ hypersonic missiles had destroyed a weapons storage site in western Ukraine. This was the first time Russia has used a hypersonic missile since February 24, when it initiated its so-called “special military operations” in Ukraine.

In another similar instance, Russia revealed that it was using a new generation of a laser weapon called ‘Zadira’ against Ukraine. If true, this again makes Russia the first-ever country to use Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) in a full-scale war. However, no other details were given about this new secret laser weapon.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mockingly compared the news of the lasers to Nazi Germany’s so-called “wonder weapons” released in an attempt to avoid defeat during WW2.

On the other hand, the US said it had no evidence of any such weapon and derided it as Russian propaganda, BBC reported.

While it is true that Russia’s blitzkrieg against Ukraine launched at the end of February after a long period of mobilization and intimidation was a failure, it has still managed to wreak havoc in the country and bring down strategic port cities like Mariupol. The Russian strikes at the port city of Odessa have likewise continued unabated.

Since the invasion began, a parallel ‘media war’ has been fought between Russia and pro-Ukraine groups. While it is evident that Western media deride Russian claims and the efficacy of its weapon systems, we examine the depth of Russian assertions.

Russian Hypersonic Missile

The hypersonic missile Kh-47M2 Kinzhal fired by Russia on a weapons depot in Western Ukraine had hit the target with precision, as was acknowledged by the Ukrainians.

The missiles destroyed an underground stockpile containing Ukrainian missiles and aircraft ammunition, according to Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s defense ministry.

On the other hand, the US General’s testimony before the Senate sub-committee tells a different story altogether, as described above.

Further, John Plumb, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Strategy, said “the sobering reality” is that Russia’s estimated 1,500 missiles fired since the February 24 invasion had targeted the Ukrainian people despite Russia’s overall inaccuracy in shooting all of its missiles.

However, the video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense shows a precision strike.

Further, the NORTHCOM Commander himself admitted that “Russia has fielded large numbers of long-range cruise missiles, including hypersonic missiles that can cause enormous damage to infrastructure [and] create strategic effects with conventional warheads.”

General VanHerck said that the Pentagon first found that Russian missiles were not performing as well as American missiles. Still, they are now “on par” with American capabilities, as the Air Force Magazine noted.

As far as the precision of the Russian hypersonic missile is concerned, Rajiv Nayan, Senior Research Associate at Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, told The EurAsian Times — “Russian hypersonic technology is well demonstrated. Hypersonic is about speed and not so much about precision. However, Russia has already mastered the precision technology.”

Russia has three operational hypersonic missiles- the Avangard, Tsirkon/Zirkon and the Kinzhal. Not just that, the Avangard could soon team up with the all-new Russian Sarmat Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile to increase its lethality.

An image from Russian military video footage shows the Avangard hypersonic missile system preparing for launch. (Russian Defence Ministry photo)

Unfortunately, the US military does have a reflexive disregard for Soviet/Russian equipment. This often stems from limited information about them, which was certainly the case during the Cold War, or good old-fashioned prejudice towards a non-Western adversary.

Regarding the comments about underperforming Kinzhal missiles and directed energy weapons, it’s safe to assume the US military has observed these being used in some manner and reached their judgment”, Philippines-based military analyst Miguel Miranda told The EurAsian Times.

He further explained, “Cutting edge technology does underperform when introduced, and this is well documented. Let me cite a historical example: During the 1960s, the US Air Force and Navy had inadequate intelligence on Soviet SAMs and radars, leading to catastrophic losses of their most advanced aircraft over North Vietnam. The Soviets and now the Russians are not immune from the same.”

The Russians are years ahead of the US in hypersonic missile technology. This is precisely why the US is now going all out to quickly develop its weapon to match the capability of its adversaries. However, while the US is yet to finalize a contractor for its missile development, Russia has announced that it is developing ‘next-generation’ hypersonic missiles for air, land, and sea platforms.

So, even though the NORTHCOM Commander believes that Russian hypersonic missiles have underperformed in terms of accuracy, there is little evidence to corroborate it. However, the Western media has overwhelmingly publicized the argument, which hints at propaganda.

File Image: Vladimir Putin and
Sergey Shoigu

Laser Weapon – A ‘Wonder Weapon’ In Reality?

Yury Borisov, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of military development, told Russian television that a laser prototype called Zadira was being tested in Ukraine and had destroyed a Ukrainian drone in five seconds at a distance of five kilometers (three miles).

This was in addition to a prior laser system known as Peresvet, which could be used to dazzle satellites orbiting high above Earth and prevent them from gathering information. Peresvet was named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk who died in mortal combat.

US Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday that Washington does not see any indication that Russia is using weaponized lasers in Ukraine amid its special military operation there,

“No, we don’t have any indication of the use of … weaponized lasers in Ukraine, nothing to confirm on that,” Kirby said during a press briefing.

File Image: Peresvet (laser weapon) – Wikipedia

A missile defense expert Dr. Uzi Rubin quoted by BBC, said, “Zelensky is right – it’s no wonder weapon,” he told the BBC.” It took them several seconds to shoot the UAV down. There are much better ways to do it, to use a Stinger or an anti-aircraft missile would have been cheaper, faster, and longer range.”

However, dismissing the Russian laser weapon without having any evidence regarding its efficacy could be a premature move by the West and its media.

Russia fielded its first laser weapon called ‘Peresvet’ back in 2018, about four years before the Zadira, which is reportedly being used against Ukraine now. The Persvet was made operational and deployed along with the Russian ICBMs to blind the optic system seeking out Russian targets.

The research and development of laser weapons have been going on for a while, with the ultimate aim being the use of a laser to take out targets, a feat that has been aggressively sought after even by the United States.

USS Portland shoots at a test target using a high-energy laser system. (US Navy photo])

The US Navy itself stated on April 13 that an all-electric, high-energy laser weapon was used for the first time to eliminate a target emulating a subsonic cruise missile in flight during an Office of Naval Research (ONR) test in February, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

On being asked whether the revelation about the Zadira laser weapon is just Russian propaganda, Defense Analyst and Managing Editor of EurAsian Times Nitin J Ticku said, “First, without evidence, it would be premature to dismiss the use of Zadira laser weapon as mere propaganda. We might as well wait for the claims to be corroborated than negate any such possibility.

Second, as an ardent military watcher, the capability of any weapon system could not be dismissed based on conjecture. Russia’s laser weapon development goes back several years, and remember, Peresvet was fielded way back in 2018.

The ultimate aim of any laser-based weapons system is to go over and beyond the dazzling function and destroy the target, as we have seen in Star Wars. Looking at the vast devastation of the Russian military hardware in Ukraine, it appears that laser technology is still in the nascent stage. 

Overall, the might of Russian Hypersonic technology is well accepted and acknowledged in the western world. Russian military testing a laser weapon in Ukraine cannot be ruled out, however, Moscow leading the laser weapons race appears far stretched.