Military

Rheinmetall's 50kW high-energy laser weapon successfully passes tests

Rheinmetall's 50kW high-energy...
The Rheinmetall Laser
The Rheinmetall Laser
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The Rheinmetall Laser
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The Rheinmetall Laser
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The Rheinmetall Laser

Practical high-energy laser weapons came a step closer to reality in November as Rheinmetall tested its new 50 kW high-energy weapon laser demonstrator. The series of exercises took place at the German-based group’s Ochsenboden Proving Ground in Switzerland. There the 50 kW laser weapon was tested against a series of targets to show the improvements over last year’s 10 kW version.

Designed for air defense, asymmetric warfare and Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) operations, the Rheinmetall laser isn't a single weapon, but two laser modules mounted on Oerlikon Revolver Gun air defense turrets with additional modules for the power supply. The lasers are combined using Rheinmetall's Beam Superimposing Technology (BST) to focus a 30 kW and a 20 kW laser on the same spot. This gives it the destructive power of a single 50 kW laser. The company says that a future 100 kW laser weapon is entirely feasible.

The Rheinmetall Laser
The Rheinmetall Laser

The tests set the laser against three different targets. The first was a 15 mm-thick (0.59 in) steel girder that was cut through at a distance of 1,000 meters (3,281 ft). The second was a group of nose-diving target drones flying at 50 meters per second (164 ft/s) that were detected at a range of three kilometers (1.86 mi) and shot down at two kilometers (1.24 mi) within a few seconds. The third test was a simulated mortar attack using a steel ball 82 mm (3.22 in) in diameter moving at 50 meters per second. The 30 kW laser unit immediately tracked it before locking on and destroying the target. According to Rheinmetall, the time needed to knock out the “mortar” was fast enough to engage and destroy mortars at long range even in bad weather.

Rheinmetall is very pleased with the test results, stating that the tests show that the system can operate in snow, dazzling sunlight, ice and rain as well as fulfilling the energy and cooling requirements for laser weapon systems and delivering twice the power output for the same equipment volume of previous systems. The company intends to build a 60 kW laser demonstrator next year and study how to integrate 35 mm Ahead Revolver Guns into the system as well as developing a mobile version.

Source: Rheinmetall

22 comments
Dave MacLachlan
I wonder if standard procedure in the future will involve "seeding" the target area just before a mortar attack with Mylar foil chaff, in order to diffuse or deflect the lasers sufficiently to prevent destruction of the shell.
David Zucaro
Seriously its nearly 2013. You can't post an article about a laser blowing crap up without a video!!!
Bill Bennett
Video David! I want one! my 1.5 watt 445 mn laser is fun, this would be a blast! umm Dave, you have not played with lasers, my 1.5 watt has no problem with reflectives other than me making sure that I am wearing safety glasses, the difference between 1.0 watt and 1.5 is shocking 1. 0nly dark colors, 1.5 any color 50KW sheet
Australian
@ Dave MacLachlan. How would you imagine they would "seed" said foil? With a mortar? Rocket? Aircraft? Any attempt to put it there in the first place would also be a target for this technology. I can't imagine it being viable. It would be far more effective to coat any projectile/rocket in a highly reflective coating from the outset.
Dave MacLachlan
The shells could be two-part; first goes "poof" and releases chaff, 2nd part goes "boom" when it hits. Or, could be preliminary bombardment with just chaff shells; sacrificial ones to entice the lasers. Similar in concept to the ICBM designs that would have multiple decoys intermixed with the actual MIRV warheads, designed to spoof any ABM systems. Who knows? Every time a new tech comes along promising to do X, another tech gets developed to counter it.
Dave Hargraves
how about a microwave emitter that fries the electronics of missiles?
Slowburn
90% of the casualties from artillery are taken in the first 9 seconds. Simply stopping the first salvo will give enough time for the average soldier to find or make cover.
sk8dad
If you can blow up a drone at 1km, than you should be able to do skin surgery from much farther. Imagine space based tattoo/hair removal. Patients will no longer have to leave their home--they just have to hold still. Yeah progress! But seriously, they basically focus two lasers to the same spot. How hard will it be to focus a phalanx of such lasers on a battle field to provide both massive additive power and/or redundancy/overlap. Not only can you protect against mortars and kamikaze drones, you can basically cook the entirety of the opposing troops and all their fuel/ammunition. Would you still need bullets then?
michael_dowling
How come Israel went with Iron Dome rather than THEL? A hell of a lot cheaper per shot!
L1ma
I expect the first salvo of shells would consist of solid slugs which rotate to disperse heat or as likely shells would get ablative thermal coatings. Sensors attached in both would give the location of the counter battery laser unit which would be a direct target for the next salvo using smoke shells, bomblets and EMP weapons. Artillery always prioritises counter battery fire first.