Following the successful one-year test of a Laser Weapon Demonstrator (LWD) on the German Navy frigate FGS Sachsen (F124) last monththe Bundeswehr asked for more demanding requirements to be met for the development of the future High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon system.
Working together as part of the Naval High Energy Laser Demonstration Group, abbreviated in German as ‘ARGE’, MBDA was responsible for producing command and control as well as target tracking capabilities, while Rheinmetall fabricated the laser power source, beam guides and other specialized internal components.
At an international press event at MBDA Germany’s Schrobenhausen facility last week, Doris Laarmann, head of the company’s laser business development, discussed the latest requirements as well as the innovative approaches adopted to effectively track targets using the sophisticated sensor suite and command and control (C2 ) interface.
A brief look at the Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) market.
HEL systems engage targets at the speed of light, with very low optical detectability, while operating with the highest possible accuracy and minimal collateral damage.
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Leading information consultancy GlobalData suggests that the DEW market presents significant growth potential due to increasing global demand and extensive opportunities for technological innovation.
According to GlobalData, Germany has spent $195 million (€183.1 million) on DEW systems to stay invested in market potential. However, the Bundeswehr is more careful with its research and development (R&D) efforts, which explains why MBDA’s LWD project was fully funded.
However, the low cost per engagement will certainly balance the net life-cycle costs of conventional missile systems – taking into account additional equipment and missiles.
Currently, this has not stopped the increase in global spending on conventional missile programs, including the ground-based strategic deterrent, Patriot Advanced Capability-3, Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2, SM-6 block 1 and Next Generation Interceptor programs from OUR.
The requirements of the Bundeswehr and the future of lasers
At the press event, Laarmann explained the various stages of development of the Laser Weapon System (LWS).
MBDA Germany achieved proof of concept in 2008, developed the critical technologies required for the system in 2010, and its team has recently demonstrated the system in an operational environment against land, air and sea targets.
Although the technology is ready, the Bundeswehr requires a smaller, integrated and modular system unlike the 20-foot, six-and-a-half-ton container unit that was in the German Sachsen frigate last year.
MBDA Germany expects to fulfill these additional developments by 2027+.
In addition, the German Armed Forces want an LWS that is more powerful – with the ability to engage more difficult targets such as drone swarms. Currently, the LWD beam operates at 50-100 kw, which requires an engagement time of three to five seconds to destroy a target.
“Lasers are a compliment to missiles. They will not be outdone [right now]Laarmann said.
When asked if the defense industry will eventually move to greater use of LWS compared to conventional missiles, Laarmann explained that it “depends” on the intensity of the laser beam.
“Right now we’re at 50-100 kw,” but that “could eventually get past the megawatt level, whereas now we’re in kilowatts.”
If this is the case, then the simultaneous propulsion and reliability of conventional missiles will not be a consideration for some time.
Emerging ideas for increased flexibility are entering the missile defense market, such as low-radar cross-section missiles operating at supersonic speeds, which GlobalData says will change the current paradigm for asset detection and defensive countermeasures, in turn driving R&D investments in missile defense systems.
Right now “we’re still a rocket company,” Laarmann reiterated.
Read the original at Defence247.gr