The wall of hot lead thrown out by a Phalanx system may be effective against inbound artillery threats, but spewing hundreds of rounds to knock out a single bomb isn’t exactly efficient. Instead, one German defence contractor aims to simply fry them out of the sky.
The 40kW missile defence system developed by MBDA Germany is among the most powerful in the world — almost double the output of similar American laser systems that top out at a paltry 25kW — and capable of burning clear a mortar shell or penetrate 40mm of steel in “a few seconds”. MBDA employs a quartet of 10kW fibre lasers combined into a single beam using the company’s patented beam coupling technology. The system also relies on a Spexer 2000 radar for pre-targeting and a MEOS II IR optronics package for long-range tracking. Altogether, this system is able to spot, track and eliminate inbound threats as far away as 2000 metres.
The missile shield proved its range and accuracy last month at the German military’s proving grounds at Oberjettenberg, as it successfully shot down incoming salvos of rockets, artillery and mortar shells (C-RAM) launched as high as 1000m into the air using a wide variety of flight paths. “The tests demonstrated the good beam quality of the lasers used and the precise and low-loss merging of the individual beams,” the company announced in a recent press release. “This is the only way to ensure that targets are neutralized rapidly and reliably.”
MBDA has been developing the system since 2008, and successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of the individual 10kW beams in September of last year, when it eliminated targets 1.2m away. “High-power laser weapons can soon provide an answer to conventional and asymmetric threats in military missions,” said Peter Heilmeier, head of market and business development at MBDA Germany. “They can contribute greatly to protecting our troops. Laser weapons are characterised by precision at long ranges, minimum operating costs and the avoidance of collateral damage.”
The company hopes to further develop the system into an effective anti-IED weapon with a 100m range within the next three years and give it the ability to engage incoming artillery in “real-life environmental conditions,” from as far as 3km using five, 20kW lasers within the next half decade. Future iterations could also be programmed to fry hostile UAVs or provide defence against shoulder-launched SAMs at temporary air strips. [Defence Talk – Optics – Flight Global – MBDA]