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Fire Reportedly Disrupts Soviet Space Arms Plans

August 20, 1986|From Reuters

GENEVA — The Soviet Union's space weapons program suffered a major setback when fire destroyed its only airborne laser weapons laboratory earlier this year, the private International Defense Review monthly magazine said Tuesday.

Quoting informed Washington sources, the Geneva-based magazine said that "in the eyes of the U.S. military intelligence and the research and development community, this loss could represent a major blow to the Soviet development program."

The review, which specializes in military equipment and strategy, said the Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft that housed the laboratory was destroyed by an unexplained fire on the ground late in May or early June.

The heavily modified aircraft served as the platform for a prototype laser weapon intended for use against satellites or attacking cruise missiles, it said.

The magazine said the laser program was begun several years ago. Assuming successful development, limited deployment could have started early in the 1990s.

The laser laboratory was part of Moscow's equivalent of the American Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars"), the magazine said.

The Soviet Union has denied that it has such a space weapons program and called on the United States to abandon its "Star Wars" project at superpower negotiations on space and nuclear arms.

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