Published January 14, 2013
A German company used a futuristic laser weapon to cut through a half-inch thick steel girder from 2/3 of a mile away.
But don’t try running away just yet: Dusseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group also reported that its new 50kW high-energy weapon technology can successfully detect and engage targets.
The company announced its 2012 year-end operational testing at the Ochsenboden Proving Groud (EZO) in Switzerland, where it successfully overcame tough environmental conditions including snow, ice, rain and blinding sunlight to neutralize targets.
Since 2011, the company has increased the power of its lasers five-fold, producing twice the laser output within the same volume. The weapon was run against five different scenarios including air defense; countering rockets, artillery, and mortar (abbreviated C-RAM or counter-RAM); and asymmetric warfare operations.
And Rheinmetall showed that laser weapons could be placed at different locations and work together to create one superbeam against a target, a technology it calls Beam Superimposing Technology.
Currently, there are two components: a 30kW and 20kW laser weapon station each integrated into an air defense Revolver Gun Turret and operated with a Skyguard fire control unit built by subsidiary Oerlikon.
This modular design lets the weapon maintain high quality while increasing overall performance.
Against several nose-diving drones, the system’s radar can detect incoming unmanned aerial vehicles and within seconds shoot down the whizzing drones, which fly at more than 111 miles per hour at a range of 1.25 miles.
The laser was also challenged to detect, pursue and engage a tiny ballistic target.
The Skyguard fire control unit immediately detected the 82 mm steel ball, the 30kW laser weapon station mechanically tracked it and then laser weapon optically tracked the tiny target and destroyed it.
Later this year, Rheinmetall plans to unveil more laser tech -- this time combining a laser weapon with an automatic canon.
The company is currently working on integrating a 60kW laser with the 35mm Ahead Revolver Guns system.
Further down the road, the company believes from a technical stand-point that it will build a 100kW output weapon, as well as a mobile version.
The company has successfully tested a 1kW laser on a special TM170 vehicle, but will be developing the laser for other vehicle platforms as well.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.