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

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December 20, 2012

The Rheinmetall Laser

The Rheinmetall Laser

Image Gallery (3 images)

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 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

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
22 Comments

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.

Dave MacLachlan
20th December, 2012 @ 07:18 pm PST

Seriously its nearly 2013. You can't post an article about a laser blowing crap up without a video!!!

David Zucaro
20th December, 2012 @ 09:11 pm PST

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

Bill Bennett
20th December, 2012 @ 10:15 pm PST

@ 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.

Australian
21st December, 2012 @ 01:00 am PST

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 MacLachlan
21st December, 2012 @ 10:08 am PST

how about a microwave emitter that fries the electronics of missiles?

Dave Hargraves
21st December, 2012 @ 11:30 am PST

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.

Slowburn
21st December, 2012 @ 12:11 pm PST

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?

sk8dad
21st December, 2012 @ 01:35 pm PST

How come Israel went with Iron Dome rather than THEL? A hell of a lot cheaper per shot!

michael_dowling
21st December, 2012 @ 04:19 pm PST

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.

L1ma
22nd December, 2012 @ 06:24 am PST

Dear Santa

Ian Powell
23rd December, 2012 @ 12:26 am PST

Michael, Israel indeed investigated laser technologies before fast-tracking Iron Dome. Top engineers and military experts concluded that in the short term, already-proven fighter jet air-to-air missile technologies developed locally were the best bet for a practical solution to an immediate problem of short-range (5 to 70 km.) missile interception. The results (an extremely impressive more-than-90% successful intercept record in actual battle conditions with dozens of enemy missiles fired simultaneously) proved that despite the high cost per intercept, using already proven tracking-and-intercept technology was by far the best solution in the current circumstances.

Because of Israel's unique situation, however, R&D does not stop for a minute. You can be sure that several engineering teams somewhere in Israel are hard at work on laser-based solutions as well. If there is a practical solution to be had, you can be fairly sure that Israel will be the first to develop and deploy it. There's nothing like having an immediate home-front military threat by an enemy to drive technological research!

Danny Allman
23rd December, 2012 @ 01:25 am PST

I wonder if I could put one of these on top of my car?

Robert Bigger
23rd December, 2012 @ 04:20 am PST

mylear chaff wouldn't deflect the laser it would just burn and the chaff might effect the radar...but since nobody wants to fire chaff along the path of every mortar and artillery shell it's a moot concept

Jerald Jackson
24th December, 2012 @ 03:13 am PST

As I'm reading this, I'm waiting to scroll down and see the video!!!!! Bah, humbug

dsiple
24th December, 2012 @ 10:15 am PST

A powerful laser is definitely a good weapon . But we're too caught up with this .

It also is a valuable tool , that will probably find more use than military .

Fronz
24th December, 2012 @ 05:02 pm PST

How big does it need to be for moving an asteroid?

Layne Nelson
24th December, 2012 @ 08:23 pm PST

"How big does it need to be for moving an asteroid?

Layne Nelson"

An interesting thought. I would think, simply diverting it's course would be enough for most cases. If ice is present, vaporization should cause some thrust.

Perhaps an earlier idea could be used in tandem. Hit the asteroid with white paint, then bathe it with laser, to provide thrust, in addition to sun light. How much it would add to the solar sail idea, I have no idea.

kellory
26th December, 2012 @ 06:11 pm PST

would high powered cutting lasers bounce off a mirror finished like surface?

Cedric Naculangan
27th December, 2012 @ 05:50 am PST

@Danny Allman -- I agree, an active military threat changes one's perspective. Looking at the big picture, do you really need a high energy laser of this magnitude to target drones and, is the high cost of such a system really justified for C-RAM?

Other thoughts:

1) The two lasers (30 and 20Kw) are made up of further 10kW fiber lasers. These, based on their bandwidths, can combine beams only incoherently, which limits their range quite dramatically. Based on their application set, this looks like another case where the rationale for spending large sums of money on a laser is downgraded so that expectations get lower and lower (e.g. shooting down mortars and drones!!!! If that had been part of the original motivation, they would never have received money - certainly not in the USA).

2) Not that impressive a demonstration, targeting an object traveling at 180Km/hour, when the real problem is a missile heading towards you at up to 4800Km/hour - one needs to hit this miles away, something this laser can't reach out far enough to do!! Their reference to a couple of kilometers as long distance is a bit of a joke when you want to engage missiles, which is the primary need for such high power lasers.

3) A practical C-RAM set has to be man portable, not mobile. Their technology is not scalable down to that.

Jack Lovell
28th December, 2012 @ 08:08 am PST

@Jack Lovell: I couldnt agree with u in several aspect:

1)From first laser device weaponrized to nowaday, these are many type of laser system, work in vary bandwith & pulsed by different mechanism. The USA already have some High energy Laser which capable to counter ABM, but it also have significant backward, one of the unfeasible problem is the bloom, and it will be more serious under rain, fog, and ice condition. Compared with US Navy Free electron laser project(be invented several times of money than Rheinmetall and worked for more than 8 year still couldnt reach the full-power prototype until 2018.) the new optical fiber laser was smaler & lower thermal distortion . And like Free electron laser,it also has the most important advantage that other mechanism couldnt overcome: full wealth condition operationable. So it is worth to see the future development as the developer said: reach the 100kw is feasible!

2)The real situation is we rarely face those high precise, expensive weapon but massive dumb, inprecise while had same destruction power & much cheaper weapon used by insurgent. It is better use mature, cost effecient tech rather than star-war type friction countermeasure.US phalanx used to protect ground force & worked fine. In fact all these step u have to proccessed to achieve higher level,those military experts never forgot the goal they want, not just for cruise missile defend.

HolyCrusader
18th January, 2013 @ 12:49 am PST

So it looks like ceramic mortar shells that don't blow but come at you white hot, and give you your energy back.. Ouch!

nimbus
30th January, 2013 @ 03:41 am PST
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