Rheinmetall Defence has successfully completed field trials of the new 50kW high-energy laser (HEL) technology demonstrator at its Ochsenboden Proving Ground (EZO) in Switzerland.

Conducted in November under snowy conditions and bright sunlight, the testing was to demonstrate five-fold increase in the weapon’s efficiency and enhanced stability, when compared with the 10kW version tested by the company in 2011.

The efficiency improvement increases the weapon’s suitability for individual scenarios such as air defence, counter rocket, artillery, mortar (C-RAM) and asymmetric warfare operations.

"The efficiency improvement increases the weapon’s suitability for individual scenarios such as air defence, C-RAM and asymmetric warfare operations."

Testing also highlighted the weapon’s ability to bombard a single target in a superimposed, increasing manner, using Rheinmetall’s existing Beam Superimposing Technology (BST), which increases overall mission performance over time.

Two HEL functional models, including an Oerlikon Revolver Gun air defence turret-integrated 30kW weapon station, as well as an Oerlikon Skyguard fire control unit and a 20kW weapon station integrated into a Revolver Gun turret were used for static and dynamic testing.

During testing, the 30kW weapon station engaged and destroyed incoming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at a distance of 2km, using data gathered by Skyguard radar and cutting through a 15mm-thick steel girder at a range of 1,000m.

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During its flight, the weapon was also successful in striking an extremely small ballistic target, simulated by an 82mm steel ball travelling at a speed of 50m/sec, confirming the tactical viability of laser weapons usage in future C-RAM operations, even in adverse weather conditions.

Rheinmetall has increased HEL’s power density (kW/m3) compared with the10kW demonstrator, which enabled the weapon to produce twice the laser output within the same volume.

The company is now planning to develop a company-financed 60kW technology demonstrator with enhanced laser output in 2013, as well as pursuing the concept for a mobile HEL weapon with different mobile platforms.