Home Europe Rheinmetall to trial laser demonstrator aboard German air-defense frigate

Rheinmetall to trial laser demonstrator aboard German air-defense frigate

FGS Sachsen
German navy file photo of air-defense frigate FGS Sachsen

German defense technology company will be testing a new laser weapon system onboard a Sachsen-class air-defense frigate over the next year.

According to the company, the undertaking is part of a contract awarded by the German defense procurement agency (BAAINBw) at the end of the second quarter of 2020.

While the laser source demonstrator can be employed in various projects to study in greater depth the use of laser technology in military applications, the first project will be a year-long trial phase onboard the Germany Navy frigate Sachsen.

The laser demonstrator is based on spectral coupling technology. Its key performance data include scalable output power of up to 20 kW. In essence, the demonstrator consists of twelve nearly identical 2kW fibre laser modules with close to diffraction-limited beam quality. A beam combiner – a subassembly that turns multiple beams into a single beam by means of dielectric grid technology – couples the twelve fibre laser beams to form a single laser beam.

Spectral coupling technology offers a multitude of advantages compared with other coupling technologies, e.g. geometric coupling: it is less complex, highly modular and features growth potential in the 100kW performance class, according to the company.

In 2015, during trials conducted in the Baltic, Rheinmetall successfully engaged targets on land with a functional prototype of a shipboard laser weapon system for the first time in Europe. Then, in 2018, BAAINBw and Rheinmetall successfully tested a laboratory-based 20kW laser source.

“The planned trials, to be conducted in military environments under authentic operating conditions, are the next step on the path from laboratory to practical application, all in the space of just three years. This is a major step – vital and demanding – on the road to introducing future laser weapon systems,” the company says.