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Laser Downs Unmanned Craft

Photonics.com
Nov 2011
DÜSSELDORF, Germany, Nov. 29, 2011 — Rheinmetall AG has demonstrated the operational potential of combining a powerful laser weapon with an advanced air defense system. It recently used a high-energy laser weapon to down an unmanned aircraft at a proving ground in Switzerland.

At a live fire laser demonstration, international guests viewed two laser weapon demonstrators in action, each featuring different performance parameters.

For example, a 10-kW laser was integrated into an air defense system consisting of an Oerlikon Skyguard 3 fire control unit and a Skyshield gun turret. Modular and scalable, the laser weapon itself consisted of two 5-kW modules.


Closeup view of 10-kW laser turret. (Images: Rheinmetall)

In addition, a 1-kW laser weapon module was displayed, specially mounted on a TM 170-type vehicle for the purpose.

Both laser weapon demonstrators were deployed in different scenarios: as a means of providing protection from asymmetric, terrorist-type threats; in a counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) context; and in an air defense scenario with an unmanned air vehicle serving as the target.

The 1-kW laser weapon demonstrator sank a moving rubber raft (a substitute for an enemy speedboat) and destroyed improvised explosive devices (IEDs); the demonstrator also neutralized unexploded ordnance from a safe distance.

In the C-RAM scenario, the 10-kW laser weapon demonstrator revealed that doubling the laser output from 5 kW (the design status in 2010) to 10 kW results in substantially improved performance against mortar rounds, reducing the required engagement time by approximately 50 percent.

A highlight in the air defense scenario was the engagement of a Tier 1-class unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The air defense system, equipped with a 10-kW laser weapon demonstrator, detected, tracked and engaged the target, destroying the UAV in flight.


Rheinmetall’s high-energy laser downs an unmanned aircraft at a proving ground in Switzerland.

In cooperation with its partner, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF) in Jena, Rheinmetall holds the public world record for spectral coupling of laser pulses with an 8-kW laser output and excellent beam quality.

The latest live fire demonstration, a joint effort by Rheinmetall’s Weapons and Munitions and Air Defense divisions, shows that the group possesses the skills to develop complex laser weapon systems. Through its work on behalf of the German government and an application of its own resources, Rheinmetall has acquired expertise in this field in recent years.

Rheinmetall expects a high-energy laser weapon system with an output of 100 kW to be available within the next three to five years. Currently, the modular, scalable design can meet a variety of requirements, the company said.

Along with precision, ease of integration into various platforms and scalable escalation, laser weapons in the future will offer the principal advantage of reduced cost, since material consumption and wear and tear with laser effectors is naturally low, Rheinmetall said.

For more information, visit: www.rheinmetall.de  


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