In June 2022, the German frigate “SACHSEN” successfully completed sea trials of the Laser Weapon Demonstrator (LWD) following its integration on board. The development, construction, and support during these trials were overseen by the High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group (ARGE), a collaboration between MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall, under the coordination of the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology, and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).
Over nearly a year, these trials encompassed six campaigns and rigorously tested the combat capabilities of the LWD in increasingly complex scenarios, simulating realistic operating conditions against various target types. This comprehensive assessment included elements such as detection and tracking, even for highly agile targets, the coordination between sensors, command systems, and weapon engagement systems, rules of engagement, and the successful engagement of targets using a high-energy laser beam. The LWD conducted over a hundred test firings on board the “SACHSEN,” unequivocally demonstrating the laser’s effectiveness in maritime environments.
Concluding the trials, the LWD’s capabilities were showcased during two VIP events attended by high-ranking representatives from BAAINBw, the German Navy and Army, the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning (PlgABw), and other stakeholders. The demonstrations included the successful interception of a drone, drawing the participation of naval representatives from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway. The remarkable success of the testing phase was a testament to the exceptional cooperation between BAAINBw and its subordinate units, the German Navy, the crew of the frigate “SACHSEN,” and the ARGE.
Following almost a year of intensive testing, BAAINBw and the defense industry have acquired valuable insights into the operational potential, performance capabilities, and developmental possibilities of high-energy laser systems. Currently, the demonstrator is undergoing thorough examination and will subsequently be transferred to Bundeswehr Technical Centre 91 in Meppen. The results and analysis from these tests will serve to mitigate risks in the potential next phase, namely, the development of an operational laser weapon system.
The groundwork for the development of a groundbreaking laser weapon system has been firmly established. Both companies have initiated internal preparations within their respective areas of responsibility.
Complementing traditional gun-based systems and guided missiles, an operational laser weapon system is ideally suited for countering threats posed by drones, drone swarms, speedboats, and possibly missiles at close to very close ranges. In the future, it may even undergo enhancements to effectively neutralize supersonic missiles, rockets, as well as mortar and artillery rounds.