Russia has developed a powerful plane-mounted laser that has the ability to fire at enemy satellites in orbit, it has been claimed.

The claims follow fears expressed by a US air force general that there could be a space war fought between superpowers "in a matter of years".

Sources have told Russian media that the system involves both ground and radar elements to identify targets and Moscow's military engineers have "completed" the weapon.

It was stated by an anonymous source to Russian news agency Interfax that weapons manufacturer Almaz-Antey has created an "anti-satellite complex".

Almaz-Antey designer Pavel Sozinov confirmed in 2017 that they were attempting to develop weaponry which could interfere or achieve "direct functional destruction" of satellites, reports US military news website Defence One.

Research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, Samuel Bendett, told the website: "Russia considers American satellites a significant threat when it comes to potential confrontation.

"It is actively working to counter US technologies in space, such as possible electronic warfare technologies that can target hundreds of kilometres up.

"The developments in laser technologies are in step with US and Chinese advancements in this area."

Russia has previously attempted to create laser weapons including a gas laser known as Beriev A-60 which was affixed to a modified Ilyushin Il-76MD cargo plane in the Soviet era, reported The Sun.

The world's superpowers have researched both satellite and high-altitude drone technology for years and US air force chief General David Goldfein has claimed a space war could take place in a matter of years.

Goldfein said billions of dollars were needed to research new high-tech weapons at the Air Force Association's 34th annual Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Florida.

"I believe we're going to be fighting from space in a matter of years," he said.

"And we're the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new contested domain. It's not only our destiny – it's what the nation demands." ​

He continued: "Never before in our history have two additional contested domains of warfare – space and cyber – been added simultaneously. And we've had less than a decade to refine our operating concepts."