After integration of the laser weapon demonstrator (LWD) onboard the German frigate “SACHSEN” in June 2022, the trials of the LWD at sea have successfully been completed. Responsible for development and construction as well as the support during the trials that have been planned and organized by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), is the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group, or ARGE, consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall.
During the trials with overall 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. This included all aspects from detection and tracking (including highly agile targets); the interplay of sensors, command and weapon engagement systems and effectors; possible rules of engagement; and of course the successful engagement of targets with a high-energy laser beam.
The LWD has performed more than a hundred test firings onboard the Sachsen and proved that a laser is capable of successfully engaging targets in a maritime environment. 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 Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), the Germany Navy and Army as well as the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning (PlgABw), which among other things including shooting down a drone. Also, representatives of the British, Netherlands and Norwegian Navy participated during the demonstration. The huge success of the test campaign was the outcome of an excellent cooperation between BAAINBw incl. its subordinate detachments, the German Navy and especially the crew of the frigate “SACHSEN” and the ARGE.
Following nearly a year of tests, BAAINBw and the defence 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. 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 own field of responsibility.
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.