For the time ever, the German Armed Forces fired a shipboard laser weapon on board the German frigate Sachsen to successfully engage drones at short and very short range. The notable event took place on August 30th, 2022, in the Baltic Sea near Putlos Major Training Area.
The laser weapon demonstrator was developed by the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator working committee (ARGE), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH. The historic live fire test from a German Navy warship was a special moment because the team succeeded in proving the demonstrator’s capabilities in full.
“Solid teamwork between the two ARGE partners played a key role in helping us integrate a fully functional, high-performance demonstrator onboard the frigate,” reports Daniel Gruber, naval demonstrator project manager at MBDA Deutschland. “Close cooperation with the command team of the Sachsen enabled direct communication with the future user. This way, ideas from the Navy could be directly incorporated or implemented during subsequent development.”
The Future high-energy laser (HEL) weapon systems for the Navy will be especially useful in defending against drones and drone swarms as well as engaging attacking speed boats at close and very close range. But the system can also be designed for greater output, enabling it to destroy guided missiles and mortar rounds.
Both Doris Laarmann, head of laser activities at MBDA Deutschland, and Alexander Graf, in charge of program management for laser weapons at Rheinmetall Waffe und Munition GmbH, emphasized that the current trials have now set the stage for introducing laser weapon systems and capabilities into the Bundeswehr – capabilities whose relevance is by no means restricted to the Navy. The defense industry is pressing ahead with laser systems that will help to protect troops deployed in harm’s way in multiple applications.
The company now plans to continue testing the high-energy laser weapon until mid-2023. In future test campaigns, new scenarios will challenge the demonstrator’s capabilities. The results will determine what still needs to be done on the path to a fully functional, operational laser weapon.