The US Navy (USN) will field a High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) on a destroyer for the first time later this year. The USS PREBLE will be the first to be equipped with HELIOS, which will function as a close-in weapon to defend against enemy cruise missiles. The 60-kilowatt HELIOS is much more powerful than the 20-kilowatt laser weapon system the USN tested aboard afloat forward staging base USS PONCE six years ago. HELIOS will be the only deployed laser system integrated into an operational Flight IIA DDG and follows the recent demonstration by Lockheed Martin and the USN of full laser power in excess of the 60 kW requirement. The scalable laser design architecture spectrally combines multiple kilowatt fibre lasers to attain high beam quality at various power levels.
HELIOS combines three key capabilities, brought together for the first time in one weapon system:
•A high-energy laser system: The high-energy fibre laser will be designed to counter UAVs and small boats. The energy and thermal management system will leverage Lockheed Martin’s experience on Department of Defence programmes. The cooling system will be designed for maximum adaptability onboard ships. In addition, Lockheed Martin will bring decades of shipboard integration experience, reducing risk and increasing reliability.
•A long-range ISR capability: HELIOS sensors will be part of an integrated weapon system, designed to provide decision-makers with maximum access to information. HELIOS data will be available on the Lockheed Martin-led AEGIS Combat System.
•A counter-UAV dazzler capability: The HELIOS dazzler will be designed to obscure adversarial UAV-based ISR capabilities.
Lockheed Martin completed the Critical Design Review and Navy Factory QualifIcation Test milestones in 2020, demonstrating the value of system engineering rigour and proven AEGIS system integration and test processes on the way to delivering operationally effective and suitable laser weapon system that meets the USN’s mission requirements. In March 2018, the company was awarded a US$150M contract to develop two of the systems – one for shore testing and a second to be installed on a destroyer. The USN initially planned for the installation in 2020 for what it is calling the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1.
J C Menon