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MBDA Deutschland and Rheinmetall have agreed to collaborate in the high-energy laser effectors domain. Weaponised high-energy lasers (HEL) might close a capability gap in the weapon mix of guns and missiles. Developments, mainly in Germany and the USA, have paved the way to the production of powerful, easy-to-handle and logistically affordable systems which may achieve their operational viability in the foreseeable future.

Laser beams transfer energy over long distances effectively to a target in almost no time. The laser-typical collimated beam produces a high energy density on a small region of space. The scalable beam destroys structures with precise accuracy to the extent required to force the adversary to abandon his mission. The spectrum includes primarily small, hardly detectable near-ground targets with low radar cross section (low, slow, small, LSS) such as e.g. artillery shells, highly agile micro-drones (also in swarms) as well as rubber boats.

To provide the required energy for target engagement, ground-based laser weapons usually consist of a matrix-type interconnection of several fibre-optic industrial lasers having a typical laser power of up to ten kilowatts each. Laser outputs of up to 60 kilowatts have already been demonstrated in this way.

Apart from the sighting control drives, the energy supply for the laser system belongs to the most substantial system components. The energy required for first quick shots has to be available in an energy storage which can be recharged still during the subsequent engagement phase. The energy requirement of a laser system with 40 kW beam power output is likely to amount to some 150 kW that can already be supplied from commercial generators and energy storages.

In Germany, the German procurement agency BAAINBw had given a development contract to Rheinmetall and to MBDA in order to get two systems to choose the best solution of.

Now the two companies intend to construct, integrate and test a laser demonstrator for the German Navy’s K130 corvette together. The details and division of responsibilities between the two companies will be determined as soon as the performance specification is made available by the BAAINBw.

Dorothee Frank