Denial of Baseless Rumors: Russia's Response to Allegations of Space-Based Nuclear Weapon

By Girish Linganna 
Feb 23: Moscow has strongly denied the baseless rumors regarding its supposed intentions to deploy a nuclear anti-satellite system in space. 
On February 15, the Russian government vehemently refuted the claims made by mainstream US media, which suggested that Russia was developing a space-based nuclear weapon aimed at disrupting the US satellite network.
According to Sputnik media house, military analyst Igor Korotchenko suggests that the recent claims regarding Russia's alleged plans to destroy American satellites using nuclear weapons are actually a strategic maneuver to garner support for a $60 billion funding package for Ukraine in the US Congress. While the funding package had already been approved by the US Senate as part of a larger $95 billion bill, its chances of passing in the House of Representatives are considered unlikely.
Korotchenko argues that Russia possesses more cost-efficient and superior methods of anti-satellite warfare compared to the ones attributed to it by Washington.
He highlights that deploying nuclear weapons in space would be ineffective and unnecessary, as Russia already possesses simpler and less expensive means to neutralize a significant portion of the US satellite network in the event of a conflict.
According to a media house, an analysis has been conducted on the systems that could potentially fulfill this task.
1.Nudol System
On November 15, 2021, Moscow performed a direct-ascent hit-to-kill  anti-satellite test (ASAT) using the A-235 Nudol anti-satellite system. This test involved successfully intercepting and destroying an old Soviet reconnaissance satellite launched in 1982.
The A-235 Nudol is an upgraded version of the A-135 Amur strategic missile defense system. The missile has an extended range of up to 1,500 kilometers, compared to 850 kilometers of the A-135. Additionally, the interception speed of the A-235 Nudol has been enhanced to Mach 10, in contrast to Mach 3.5 of the A-135.
Unlike its previous version, the A-235 has the capability to employ kinetic force rather than relying on nuclear or high-explosive fragmentation to eliminate the target.
Kinetic force refers to the use of direct physical impact or collision to neutralize or destroy a target, without relying on nuclear or explosive means.
Following the end of the Cold War, the progress of the A-235 system was halted. However, in 2011, Almaz-Antey a Russian defence company, resumed its development, which had been interrupted for several years. This resumption occurred approximately nine years after the termination of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) by the Bush administration in 2002.
The A-235 system has undergone multiple tests since 2014. However, in November 2021, the missile was successfully launched and hit a specific moving target in space, resulting in its destruction. This event caused significant attention and concern within the Pentagon.
2.Nanosatellites: Nivelir, Burevestnik and Numismat
Russia's covert initiative called Nivelir, also known as "Leveler," has allegedly been led by the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics Named after D.I. Mendeleyev since 2011. 
This project aimed to create compact satellites with the purpose of examining other satellites in space. It is said that the initial three inspection satellites were connected to three communication satellites launched during the period of 2013 to 2015.
According to alternative reports, Russia has been conducting experiments with satellite inspectors starting from 2017. These satellites were capable of maneuvering in space, moving apart from each other and then coming closer again.
In 2019, the Cosmos-2535 and Cosmos-2536 devices were launched with the objective of examining how "artificial and natural factors of outer space" affect Russia's space equipment and developing technology to safeguard them.
The concept behind deploying satellite inspectors in specific orbits is to impact "opponent" satellites in different ways, such as "examining" them to gather essential information about them.
There are reports about a project called Burevestnik, (which should not be confused with a ballistic missile). This project is said to be based on the Nivelir project. The spacecraft being developed under Burevestnik is supposedly capable of tracking multiple fast-moving objects in space simultaneously. These objects can include missiles and satellites in high orbits. Additionally, Russia is said to be developing radar systems called Numismat ("Numismatist" or "Coin Collector") for near space. These radar systems are like small satellites and are designed to be hard to detect.
3.Kontakt System
In 1983, the USSR began developing a system called Kontakt, also known as "Contact." This system involved equipping the MiG-31D fighter-interceptor with a three-stage rocket called the 79M6 munition.
The Kontakt system was designed to launch the 79M6 munition from an airplane flying at 15 kilometers high. This munition had a fragmentation warhead intended to be fired into space. The goal was to create a stealthy and cost-effective method of destroying enemy satellites.
A fragmentation warhead refers to a type of explosive device that is designed to disperse numerous small fragments upon detonation. These fragments are intended to cause damage and destruction over a wide area by projecting outward in all directions, potentially hitting and disabling targets such as enemy aircraft, vehicles, or structures.
On July 26, 1991, a series of tests culminated in what is claimed to be a successful launch. An experimental aircraft called Izdeliye "07-2" (MiG-31D) equipped with the 79M6 missile took off from the Sary-Shagan airfield above the Bet-Pak Dala training grounds. The rocket consisted of two solid-propelled stages, while the final stage, responsible for guiding the kinetic warhead towards the target, used liquid propulsion.
The MiG-31 fighter was chosen for the project because it has the ability to fly at very high altitudes in the stratosphere. It can carry large missiles that are not typically used and can fire various types of weapons at its maximum altitude. Moreover, the MiG-31 is capable of carrying anti-satellite weapons with a large caliber.
The stratosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere that is located above the troposphere, extending approximately 10 to 50 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. It is known for containing the ozone layer, which plays a crucial role in protecting the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. 
The secretive Kontakt project was put on hold after the USSR disbanded. However, in 2009, Russia announced that they would be restarting the project using the MiG-31 aircraft. It has been reported in the media that the Russian military is currently conducting tests on an upgraded version of the system.
4.Tirada Electronic Warfare System : 
As per the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Tirada-2S radio-electronic communication suppression system has the ability to electronically disrupt and disable satellite communications. This means that satellites can be deactivated from the Earth's surface.
There is limited publicly available information regarding the specifications of the Tirada-2S system. It was initially discussed by Oleg Achasov, the deputy head of the 46th Central Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense, in 2017. Achasov mentioned that the Tirada-2S mobile complex, designed to disrupt communication satellites, was developed as part of the weapons modernization program for the period of 2018-2027.
In the following year, during the "Army-2018" international military-technical forum, a contract was signed to provide the Russian military with an automated satellite communication jamming station called "Tirada 2.3."
In 2020, military personnel in the Sverdlovsk region conducted tests on a secretive electronic warfare system. The Ministry of Defense clarified that during these tests, the crews operating the Tirada complex focused on detecting and interfering with satellite communication channels that were being used by simulated enemy aircraft and sabotage groups. Their goal was to disrupt these channels in order to prevent the transmission of information between the enemy forces. By finding and disrupting these satellite communication channels, the Tirada crews aimed to hinder the enemy's ability to coordinate their actions and exchange crucial data.
5.Peresvet Laser System
During his address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced the Peresvet, a laser weapon designed for air defense and anti-satellite warfare. 
The Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk named Alexander Peresvet, became operational in the Russian Armed Forces for experimental combat duty in December 2018. By February 2019, the Russian president declared that the laser installations had demonstrated their distinctive capabilities alongside the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.
Russian military experts claim that the Peresvet laser system has the ability to blind the optical systems of reconnaissance satellites, drones, and aircraft. Due to the classified nature of the project, it is difficult to determine the specific type of laser used. Some scientists speculate that it could be a nuclear-pumped laser, while others suggest it may be an oxygen-iodine laser (OIL) with iodine explosive pumping.
The examples mentioned earlier are only a few of the systems that could have been developed by the Russian military-industrial complex. These examples demonstrate that Russia has the ability to utilize its extensive scientific and technological capabilities to safeguard the country's security in the event of a major conflict.

(The author Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at:

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Title: Denial of Baseless Rumors: Russia's Response to Allegations of Space-Based Nuclear Weapon

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