The Bundeswehr fired a shipboard laser weapon for the first time ever, Rheinmetall and MBDA Deutschland announced in press releases on October 27. The German frigate Sachsen successfully engaged drones at short and very short range in the Baltic Sea near Putlos Major Training Area on August 30, 2022.
The laser weapon demonstrator was developed by the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator working committee, dubbed ARGE, consisting of MBDA Deutschland and Rheinmetall. The joint integration and test phase of the naval demonstrator started in November 2021. After successful completion of this phase, the demonstrator was installed onboard the frigate Sachsen. The weapon is integrated in a 20 foot container and installed on a frame on deck.
In July 2022 the first test campaign took place in Eckernförde Bay near the Bundeswehr’s Technical Centre for Ships and Naval Weapons, Marine Technology and Research, WTD 71, in Surendorf. During the trials, the capabilities of various sensors, including the electro-optical sensor suite from the ARGE and the radar, were verified. The interplay between all the components and procedures in the entire operational sequence from target acquisition to engagement was put to the test. The trials included multiple highly realistic engagement scenarios.
Testing of the high-energy laser weapon will continue until mid-2023. The current trials have now set the basic stage for introducing laser weapon systems and capabilities into the Bundeswehr. In subsequent test campaigns, new scenarios will be introduced to challenge the demonstrator’s capabilities. These will determine the path towards attaining a fully functional, operational laser weapon for the Bundeswehr.
Future high-energy laser (HEL) weapon systems for the Deutsche Marine will be especially useful in defending against drones and drone swarms as well as engaging attacking speed boats at close and very close range. The system can also be designed for greater output, enabling it to destroy guided missiles and mortar rounds according to the developers.