In the 1970s a special aviation complex was established by the Soviets at Taganrog machine-building factory to develop airborne laser technology for the Soviet military.
In 1977 Beriev OKB started the design of a flying laboratory designated '1А'. The purpose was to solve the complex scientific and engineering problems regarding the creation of an airborne laser and also to facilitate research on the distribution of beams in the top layers of an atmosphere. Work on this topic occurred with wide cooperation between the enterprises and the scientific organizations of the USSR, but the basic partner OKB was TSKB Almaz headed by B.V.Bunkin.
The Il-76MD was selected as a base aircraft for the flying laboratory. In order to accommodate the laser a lot of changes were done on the basic Il-76 design. These modifications have drastically changed the appearance of the plane.
In front, instead of the regular nosecone it was fitted with steerable beam director turret for targeting lidar (Several years later Boeing used similar concept in YAL platform, although for main laser, not targeting).
Large retractable dorsal turret was installed for main laser firing, as engineers found it impossible to fit the main laser aiming optics into the......