The German navy joins a growing club of military powers developing ship laser weapons. Germany’s defense procurement agency, BAAINBw, has contracted with Rheinmetall to develop a laser demonstrator that can be used in naval applications.
The new 20 kW class laser source is about one-third more powerful than the US Navy’s LaWS laser demonstrator, which is mounted on the USS amphibious. Ponce in 2014 for testing in the short-range defense role against minor threats, such as drones and small boats. (The test was successful Ponce since disabled.)
In mid-2020, BAAINBw contracted Rheinmetall to build its own demonstrators for prices in eight figures. The device is intended to be used in multiple projects for several military applications, but the first for a laser demonstrator will be a year-long test phase aboard a German Navy frigate. Saxony.
The Rheinmetall system is based on the spectral coupling technology, which the company has developed over the years. It consists of twelve nearly identical two kilowatt solid-state fiber laser modules with high beam quality. A beam combiner – a device that converts multiple beams into a single beam using dielectric network technology – pairs twelve fiber laser beams to form a single beam.
Rheinmetall says that the spectral coupling technology has advantages when compared to the geometric coupling systems used by other contractors: it is not very complex, it is highly modular and passive, it requires very little control effort. Contractors believe it can be upgraded to the 100 kW performance class required for longer range, higher power roles – such as anti-aircraft / anti-missile point defense.
In 2015, during trials conducted in the Baltic, Rheinmetall’s team engaged targets on the ground with a ship’s laser weapon system for the first time in Europe. In 2018, BAAINBw and Rheinmetall successfully tested a laboratory-based 20 kW laser source. The new trials, which will be carried out in a military setting, will take the project from a laboratory to a real-world installation in a span of three years.