STUTTGART, Germany — Rheinmetall and MBDA Deutschland have been tasked to build, test and field a high-energy laser weapon system for the German Navy over the next year.
The consortium, dubbed ARGE, was awarded a contract “in the low double-digit million euro range” by Germany’s military procurement office, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support. Work will be conducted through the end of 2021, with trials scheduled for 2022 aboard the Navy frigate Sachsen, per a joint announcement released Thursday.
The work is to be split on a “roughly equal basis,” the companies said. Rheinmetall will be responsible for the laser weapon system, the beam-guiding system, cooling and integrating the weapon system with the overall laser source demonstrator. MBDA will focus on the operator console along with tracking technology and command-and-control system integration.
Details have yet to be revealed about where the system’s development will take place.
This latest contract continues the companies’ collaboration on high-energy laser efforts, which was first announced in August 2019. Rheinmetall and the Germany military have been testing high-energy laser technologies in the maritime domain since 2015, a company spokesman told Defense News.
“The contract marks a systematic extension of the functional prototype laser weapon successfully tested in recent years, with the experience gained now dovetailing into one of the most ambitious projects in the field of laser weapon development in Europe,” according to Alexander Graf, head of Rheinmetall Waffe Munition’s laser weapons program, and Markus Jung, who leads the company’s laser weapon development segment.
Once the demonstrator is installed, it will be used to test other aspects of the laser weapon system, such as the sensor suite and combat management system, and evaluate rules of engagement, said Doris Laarmann, MBDA’s head of laser business development.
The German arm of MBDA announced a restructuring of operations in late 2020 following mixed signals from Berlin regarding the status of the Tactical Air Defense System program, also known as TLVS. Executives have expressed skepticism that a contract award would emerge soon for the follow-on work of the former Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS.
In 2015, the German government announced it would use MEADS as the basis for TLVS, which would eventually replace the nation’s 1980s-era Patriot air defense systems.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.