The French Armament General Directorate (DGA), French defense company, CILAS, and the French Navy are set to test the new laser weapon system HELMA-P mounted on French Navy ships at sea in 2022.
Developed by the French companies CILAS and ArianeGroup, the HELMA-P (High Energy Laser for Multiple Applications – Power) has a set of optical sensors that aid in tracking drones in-flight and is armed with a powerful two-kilowatt laser to bring them down. The system is controlled by a single operator via a human-machine interface and can neutralize in-flight targets up to one kilometer away – which is 3-4 times more than competing anti-drone technologies – in a matter of seconds.
HELMA-P is capable of destroying any type of drone flying at a speed of up to 50 km/h and in difficult target tracking conditions.
The HELMA-P laser effector is a response to the threat posed by UAVs and, in particular mini UAVs. Its mission will be to secure operations on national territory during events and to support external operations by identifying, tracking, and neutralizing the fixed or agile threat.
The laser weapon system was developed over a period of two years, and testing began in 2020 at the missile test center of the Armament General Directorate (DGA) in Southwest France.
The last of its trials were held on the 7th of July and attended by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly. The company successfully demonstrated the weapon system. Parly called the project an “exceptional experiment” and the success of the demonstrator “very promising.” The test results were better than expected, so in 2022 it is planned to test the HELMA-P on warships.
In the future, the system should appear on both land and naval military equipment. The HELMA-P is expected to be used for the first time in 2024 for the Olympic Games in Paris.
Compared to existing ship self-defense systems, such as missiles and guns, lasers could provide Navy surface ships with a more cost-effective means of countering certain surface, air, and ballistic missile targets. Ships equipped with a combination of lasers and existing self-defense systems might be able to defend themselves more effectively against a range of such targets.