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German Navy ship trials laser weapon for first time ever

German navy laser weapon trial
The laser weapon demonstrator can be seen bundled in a 20-foot container onboard FGS Sachsen. Photo: MBDA

A German air-defense frigate has hosted a laser weapon trial in the first event of this kind for the German Navy.

According to the German defense procurement agency BAAINBw, the successful trial took place aboard the Sachsen-class frigate FGS Sachsen at sea in front of the military training area in Putlos in late August.

Developed by MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH, the laser demonstrator is based on spectral coupling technology and is expected to be useful in defending against drones and drone swarms as well as engaging attacking speed boats at close and very close range.

MBDA Deutschland is responsible for target detection and target tracking, the operator console and linking the laser weapon demonstrator to the command-and-control system. Rheinmetall is taking care of the slewing system, the beam guidance, the demonstrator container as well as mechanical and electrical integration of the demonstrator onto the deck of the Sachsen, and finally for the high-energy laser source, including its periphery.

The joint integration and test phase of the naval demonstrator started in November 2021, which the joint venture integration team concluded with a successful factory acceptance test at Rheinmetall’s Unterlüß proving ground.

The demonstrator was then installed onboard the frigate Sachsen in Kiel. 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. In addition, 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 realistic engagement scenarios. The test planning and the provision of various types of targets on land, at sea or from the air were carried out and organized by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw). The test management was carried out by WTD 71.

Testing of the high-energy laser weapon will continue until mid-2023. In subsequent test campaigns, new scenarios will challenge the demonstrator’s capabilities. Not least, the results will determine what still needs to be done on the path to a fully functional, operational laser weapon.