Russia is supposedly using its invasion of Ukraine to try new technology on the battlefield. As Reuters reports, the Russian government says it's using a new wave of laser weapons to counter the Western technology aiding Ukraine's self-defense. Deputy prime minister Yury Borisov claimed Russia was using prototypes for a drone-destroying laser weapon, Zadira, that can burn up drones. One test incinerated a drone 3.1 miles away within five seconds, according to the official.
A more established system, Peresvet, reportedly blinds satellites up to 932 miles above Earth. This was already "widely deployed," Borisov claimed. The deputy leader maintained that new lasers using wide electromagnetic bands could eventually replace traditional weapons.
This isn't the first reported use of cutting-edge tech in the war against Ukraine. CNN noted that Russia has fired multiple Kinzhal hypersonic missiles at Ukrainian targets. This variant of the Iskander short-range ballistic missile can be launched from a fighter jet (the MiG-31K). Russia has maintained that Kinzhal is virtually impossible to stop due to its very high speed, but US and UK officials have dismissed its effectiveness and argued that it's really just an air-launched variant of a conventional weapon.
As with those hypersonic weapons, it's difficult to know how well the lasers work in practice. Russia has routinely made false claims about its overall capabilities and the war in Ukraine, where it has struggled to gain ground despite a large military. However, these uses may be less about turning the war around and more about symbolism — Russia wants to boast about its technological prowess and discourage further material support for Ukraine.