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German Military completes laser weapons trials at sea

26 Sep 2023

More than 100 test firings achieve integration and testing of laser weapon demonstrator on frigate “Sachsen”.

After integration of the laser weapon demonstrator (LWD) onboard the German Navy frigate “Sachsen” in June 2022, the trials of the LWD at sea have successfully been completed, it was announced this week.

Responsible for development and construction as well as the support during the trials that have been planned and organised by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), has been the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group, or ARGE, comprising military technology developers MBDA Deutschland and Rheinmetall.

The partners reported, “During the trials, which involved six campaigns lasting nearly a year, the combat effectiveness of the laser weapon demonstrator, or LWD, has been proven in increasingly complex scenarios under realistic operating conditions against different target types.”

Testing included all aspects from detection and tracking, including that of highly agile targets, the interplay of sensors, as well as command and weapon engagement systems and effectors. The partners also considered possible rules of engagement and, above all, achieved successful engagement of targets with a high-energy laser beam.

The LWD performed more than a hundred test firings onboard the Sachsen and demonstrated that a laser is capable of successfully engaging targets in a maritime environment.

‘Demonstration for VIPs’

At the end of the trials, the LWD’s capabilities were successfully demonstrated at two VIP days in front of high-ranking representatives of the BAAINBw, the Germany Navy and Army, as well as the Bundeswehr Office for Defense Planning (PlgABw), which among other things included shooting down a drone.

Representatives of the British, Netherlands and Norwegian Navies also participated during the demonstration.

MBDA and Rheinmetall said that the huge success of the test campaign was the outcome of an excellent cooperation between BAAINBw including its subordinate detachments, the German Navy and especially the crew of “Sachsen” and the ARGE.

The lead partners stated, “Following nearly a year of tests, BAAINBw and the defense industry have gained valuable knowledge into the operational possibilities, performance capabilities and development potential of high-energy laser effectors.”

The demonstrator is currently undergoing detailed examination, after which it will be transferred to Bundeswehr Technical Centre 91 in Meppen, north-western Germany. The test results and subsequent analysis will be used for minimizing risks in a possible next phase, i.e., the development of an operational laser weapon system.

The prerequisites for the development of a first laser weapon have generally been set. Both companies have launched internal preparations for the development phase within their respective fields of responsibility.

They concluded, “Complementing gun-based systems and guided missiles, an operational laser weapon system lends itself particularly to countering the threat from drones, drone swarms, speedboats and possibly missiles at close to very close range. In future, moreover, it could undergo a performance upgrade for destroying supersonic missiles, rockets as well as mortar and artillery rounds.”

About the partners

MBDA is a multi-national European group, a world-leader in the field of complex weapon systems, playing a key role in keeping nations safe. Created in the spirit of international co-operation, MBDA and its 14,000+ employees work together to support the national sovereignty of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and their allies worldwide.

Rheinmetall is a publicly-traded company based in Düsseldorf, Germany. It describes itself as a leading exponent of the international defense industry as well as a driver of forward-looking technological and industrial innovation in the civil sector. Based at 131 locations worldwide, the Group’s 28,000 employees generated sales in 2022 of around €6.4 billion.

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