The pace of High Energy Laser (HEL) technology has become a sprint with nations and defense firms alike racing to develop more and more powerful systems. Nowhere is this breakneck pace clearer than at Rheinmetall’s Ochsenboden Proving Ground, especially during a recent test of the company’s shiny, new, 500-percent improved HEL anti-artillery platform.
This past November, Rheinmetall unveiled its 50kW paired laser platform. It joins other recent HEL developments such as Boeing’s Laser Truck, and the US Navy’s 100kW testing unit. It consists of a 30kW weapons station that works in conjunction with a slightly smaller 20kW station to superimpose their beam pulses onto a single target—not unlike frying ants using the combined power of two magnifying glasses. And boy can it fry.
During the demonstration, the system successfully cut through a 15mm-thick steel girder at 1,000 meters, shot down 50m/s nose-diving drones at 2,000 meters, and detected them a thousand meters before that. It also reportedly had no issue finding an 82 mm steel ball bearing hurtling through the sky at 50 m/s, which accurately mimics a mortar of C-RAM’s trajectory, then zapping it to ash.
The system is currently being developed into a wide array of air defense, counter rocket, artillery, and mortar/C-RAM operations. And next year, according to a press release from the company, "nothing stands in the way of a future HEL weapon system with a 100kW output." Hold on to your butts, folks. [Defense Update – Rheinmetall 1, 2]