In June 2022, the laser weapon demonstrator (LWD) was successfully integrated on the German frigate “SACHSEN,” and subsequent sea trials have now concluded. The development, construction, and support of these trials were overseen by the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group (ARGE), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall, in collaboration with the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).
These trials, spanning nearly a year and comprising six campaigns, rigorously tested the combat effectiveness of the LWD in realistic conditions against various target types. This encompassed activities from target detection and tracking (including agile targets) to coordinating sensors, command systems, weapon engagement, rules of engagement, and successful target engagement using a high-energy laser beam.
The LWD conducted over a hundred test firings on the “SACHSEN,” demonstrating the capability of lasers to engage targets in a maritime environment. The successful outcomes of these trials were showcased during two VIP days attended by high-ranking representatives from BAAINBw, the German Navy and Army, and the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning (PlgABw). Notably, the LWD even successfully intercepted a drone. British, Dutch, and Norwegian Navies representatives also participated in the demonstration. The exceptional success of these trials resulted from excellent cooperation between various stakeholders.
After almost a year of testing, BAAINBw and the defense industry have acquired valuable insights into high-energy laser systems’ operational potential, performance capabilities, and development prospects. The demonstrator is undergoing a detailed examination and will be transferred to Bundeswehr Technical Centre 91 in Meppen. The findings from these tests and the ensuing analysis will be pivotal in reducing risks in a potential next phase, namely developing an operational laser weapon system.
The groundwork for developing a pioneering laser weapon has been established, with both companies initiating preparations within their respective areas of responsibility. In addition to traditional gun-based systems and guided missiles, an operational laser weapon system holds promise for countering threats posed by drones, drone swarms, speedboats, and potentially close-range missiles. Furthermore, it could undergo enhancements to address supersonic missiles, rockets, mortar rounds, and artillery projectiles in the future.
MBDA is a unique 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 cooperation, MBDA and its 14,000+ employees work together to support the national sovereignty of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and their allies worldwide. As an accelerator for innovation, MBDA is the only European group capable of designing and manufacturing complex weapons to meet the full range of current and future operational requirements of the three armed forces (land, sea, and air). Airbus (37.5%), BAE Systems (37.5%), and Leonardo (25%) jointly own MBDA.
A publicly traded company headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, Rheinmetall AG is an integrated technology group. Today it is a leading exponent of the international defence industry and a driver of forward-looking technological and industrial innovation in the civil sector. Rheinmetall AG has five divisions: Vehicle Systems, Weapon and Ammunition, Electronic Solutions, Sensors and Actuators, and Materials and Trade. Based at 131 locations worldwide, the Group’s 28,000 employees generated sales in 2022 of around €6.4 billion. Rheinmetall AG has been listed on Germany’s DAX index of forty blue chip companies since March 2023. Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH, a Group’s Weapon and Ammunition division component, oversees Rheinmetall’s high-energy laser activities.