MBDA will conduct a test-firing campaign next month using a laser weapon intended to destroy improvised explosive devices (IED) and also protect German forces from attacks using rockets, artillery or mortar shells.
Developed by MBDA Germany under a technology demonstration effort partly funded with the nation's BWB procurement body and the European Defence Agency, the high-energy laser weapon system first underwent testing in 2008.
MBDA earlier this year tested a design combining the effects of four 10kW lasers, during which the system burned through the casing of mortar shells and steel plates "in a few seconds". The company says the tests "demonstrated the good beam quality of the lasers used and the precise and low-loss merging of the individual beams". Earlier work conducted in 2011 using two 5kW lasers achieved a range of more than 2.3km (1.2nm).
"In early October we will demonstrate for the first time the entire kill chain against a flying target," says Peter Heilmeier, MBDA Germany's head of market and business development. The work will involve detecting and engaging an incoming artillery shell at the German military's Oberjettenberg proving grounds. "We are quite optimistic that we can meet this next step."
A counter-IED system capable of destroying threats from a 100m (320ft) range could be available within three years, according to MBDA, with an anti-rocket, artillery and mortar capability requiring five 20kW lasers to take a further 24 months to develop. The latter would have an effective range of up to 3km, the company says.
Further applications for the technology could include targeting hostile unmanned air vehicles or providing a ground-based capability to counter the threat posed by shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles near landing strips, Heilmeier says. However, MBDA says no studies have been performed on the potential of integrating such equipment on board an aircraft.