For the first time ever, the German Navy tests a high-energy laser weapon against drones

The weapon functioned optimally.
Loukia Papadopoulos
An image of the laser weapon.jpg
An image of the laser weapon

Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH 

German automotive and arms manufacturer Rheinmetall Waffe Munition announced in a press release on Thursday that for the time ever, the German Armed Forces fired a shipboard laser weapon. The notable event took place on August 30th 2022 when the German frigate Sachsen successfully engaged drones at short and very short range in the Baltic Sea near Putlos Major Training Area.

A historic event

The laser weapon demonstrator used by the Army was developed by the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator working committee (“ARGE”), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH.

Daniel Gruber, naval demonstrator project manager at MBDA Deutschland, and Dr. Markus Jung, in charge of laser weapon development at Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH, were both present during the test efforts and stated that for everyone involved, the historic event 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”, reported Gruber. “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 principal components of the demonstrator are truly high tech. This is the result of long years of research at both the participating companies. Many of the demonstrator’s system components were developed specially for the project and combined in this form for the first time,” added Dr Thomas Baumgärtel, project manager for the naval demonstrator at Rheinmetall Waffe und Munition GmbH.

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“Moreover, given the extremely short integration phase for a system of this complexity, we’re very proud of the results achieved thus far and of how well the trials went. The impressive performance of the HEL effectors in protecting surface combatants from short- and very-short range threats can be credited to the joint efforts of everyone involved in the project – defence industry experts, government officials, and of course the men and women of the frigate Sachsen.”

More tests to come

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, stated that the current trials have now set the stage for introducing laser weapon systems and capabilities into the Bundeswehr meaning the defense industry can now press ahead with laser systems that will help to protect troops everywhere.

The company now has plans to continue testing the high-energy laser weapon until mid-2023. Future test campaigns will see new scenarios implemented that will challenge the demonstrator’s capabilities. Data collected from these trials will influence what still needs to be done on the path to a fully functional, operational laser weapon.

“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,” concluded Rheinmetall Waffe Munition in its statement.

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