Is Russia preparing to shoot down satellites with a 79M6 missile?
MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Is Russia complicit in shooting down low-orbit satellites? This issue is again coming to the fore after, according to a publication in the publication Voennaya Miysl [Military Thought or MT], the Air Space Forces of the Russian Federation [VKS] are actively developing such a project. BulgarianMilitary.com reminds us that this Russian publication is financed and published by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
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Why again? Because this project was never interrupted, it was just fun. For the last time in 2018, a MiG-31D with a black unknown missile under the plane’s fuselage was spotted in the sky. At the time, it was claimed in Russian media that it was the 79M6 Kontakt anti-satellite missile. Now in the Russian state edition of the Ministry of Defense, the model of the missile is confirmed.
MT claims that the system is mobile, has already been developed, and includes several military units. The MiG-31D with a 79M6 Kontakt missile is one part of the system, the A60 Sokol-Echelon combat laser system mounted on the IL-76 transport aircraft is the second part of the system, and the Peresvet combat laser system is the last part of the system.
The 79M6 Kontakt is not a new rocket. It was designed already in the middle of the 84th year. It is from that time that the idea among the Russian military of countering enemy satellites in low orbit over Russian territory dates back. According to Russian open sources, the system for this countermeasure is based on a combination of existing scientific and technical knowledge and newly developed technologies. However, there is no specific information on this topic or deeper analysis.
Around the same time [the mid-1980s], the second part of the system was also developed – the A60 “Falcon-Echelon” combat laser system. It’s a kind of flying laboratory. Moscow had once decided that this flying laboratory would be the carrier of a megawatt-class laser weapon. Nearly seven years ago, the public received confirmation that the A60 was also being developed. It was officially announced by Mr. Yuri Borisov. It is about 2016 when Mr. Borisov was the Deputy Minister of Defense.
The choice of the MiG-31D is not accidental. This fighter jet can reach remarkable speeds near the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. We are talking about a speed of Mach 3 precisely at such an altitude. The MiG-31D is also a Soviet-era combat aircraft. Developed and entered service in the 1980s.
In addition to being able to fly at high altitudes at high speeds, the MiG-31D can also carry large weapons loads. It was almost forgotten against the background of new fighters, some of which can even carry bombs like the Su-34 fighter bomber. But after Russia introduced, developed, and began deploying the hypersonic Kinzhal [Dagger] missile, the MiG-31 became the perfect carrier of this missile and returned to the sights of Russian military tactics.
Arguably, the weak link at the moment in this anti-satellite system is the 79M6 Kontakt missile. Simply because no one knows her abilities since she has never been tested. The collapse of the Soviet Union put her back in storage as an unrealized project.
However, the conflicts of the past decade have shown that information and its sharing are perhaps the most important component of military tactics. See in Ukraine – the Pentagon submits the targets of the HIMARS systems based on the satellite geolocation of the Russian positions. Ukrainian troops are only asked to launch the missile. Or the reconnaissance planes and drones that share satellite technology to determine the movement of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The US also tested such a missile
In fact, Russia is not the first country to think that satellites will play a key role in the conflicts of the future. The USA has also worked in this direction. For example, Washington has the ASM-135 ASAT – an anti-satellite system, which was tested in 1985. In the role of the MiG-31D, the Americans loaded their modified F-15 Eagle aircraft.
In total, Washington conducted five tests of the ASM-135 ASAT. One of those five was successful, as the rocket brought down a NASA satellite that had to be decommissioned.
There is more and more talk not only of a third world war but also of a space war. The three largest – the USA, Russia, and China are leading an implacable race in this regard. So, restarting the Russian program could prove beneficial to Moscow if one-day humanity witnesses a global space war.
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