Rheinmetall reports that the sea trials of the laser weapon demonstration (LWD) have finished after successfully integrating aboard the German frigate “SACHSEN” in June 2022. The High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group, also known as ARGE, is comprised of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall. ARGE is in charge of the development and construction of the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator, in addition to providing support during the trials that are planned and arranged by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).
During the trials, with the overall six campaigns lasting nearly a year, the combat efficacy of the LWD has been proved in increasingly complex scenarios under realistic operating conditions against various target types, reports Rheinmetall. This included all aspects from detection and tracking (including highly agile targets), the interplay of sensors, command and weapon engagement systems and effectors, conceivable rules of engagement, and the successful engagement of targets with a high-energy laser beam.
The LWD has conducted over a hundred test firings aboard the Sachsen, demonstrating that a laser can engage targets successfully in a maritime environment. After the trials, the LWD’s capabilities were successfully demonstrated to high-ranking representatives of the Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), the Germany Navy and Army, and the Bundeswehr Office of Defence Planning (PlgABw), which included shooting down a drone. In addition, representatives of the British, Dutch, and Norwegian navies participated in the demonstration. The success of the test campaign was due to the cooperation between BAAINBw, including its subordinate detachments, the German Navy, and most notably, the crew of the frigate “SACHSEN” and the ARGE.
After nearly a year of testing, BAAINBw and the defence industry have acquired significant insight into the operational possibilities, performance capabilities, and development potential of high-energy laser effectors. The demonstrator is enduring a thorough examination and will then be transferred to Bundeswehr Technical Centre 91 in Meppen. The test results and subsequent analysis will be used to minimise risks in a possible subsequent phase, namely developing a laser weapon system for operational use.
Rheinmetall writes that the prerequisites for creating the first laser weapon have been met. Both businesses have initiated internal preparations for the development phase in their respective areas of responsibility.
An operational laser weapon system complements gun-based systems and guided missiles and is ideally suited for countering the threat posed by drones, drone swarms, speedboats, and potentially missiles at close to very close range. In addition, it could endure a performance upgrade in the future to destroy supersonic missiles, rockets, mortar, and artillery rounds.