A new laser weapon test facility in Bordeaux France has been inaugurated by MBDA and ALPhANOV.
The Vulnerability Test Facility (VTF), in development since 2016, is designed to test the effects of lasers on materials. To do this the site utilises laser power sources adjustable from 1 to 10 kW and multiple measurement means (fast, visible and infrared imaging, pyrometers, thermocouples, etc.) to monitor the effects delivered by the lasers. This co-operation includes the completion of the VTF as well as its joint implementation for a four-year period.
The VTF has the ability to simulate many of the real world conditions of a real-life laser firing, including: the imperfections of pointing a dynamic beam, employment against crossing and spinning targets, and the complex interactions between the laser and target materials, among others. This will allow the requirements to be defined for all the individual components of a laser weapon (laser source, aiming accuracy, beam focus, etc.) and the optimisation of future laser system architectures against the various types of targets that they may engage (aircraft, missiles, drones, shells, optical sensors, vehicles, naval vessels).
Antoine Bouvier, MBDA's CEO said: “The VTF may contribute to the ongoing projects we are conducting for our German and British customers, as it will allow us to specify our future laser weapons in order to meet the exact needs of our military customers. This test facility is a major milestone on the path to a complete mastering of laser weapons and to strategic autonomy in this area. This is the objective of MBDA, as well as the objective of our domestic nations; now shared by Europe through its policy of Permanent Structured Cooperation.”
AT DSEI in London in 2017, a new laser weapon demonstrator being built for the UK Ministry of Defence was unveiled for the first time by the UK Dragonfire consortium.
Led by MBDA, under contract to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Dstl, UK Dragonfire is a grouping of the best of British industry brought together to develop this advanced and complex new programme for the UK Armed Forces.
The beam director, provided by Leonardo, brings together QinetiQ’s powerful laser emitter, as well as electro-optics for target identification and tracking. MBDA is bringing prime weapon system delivery experience and advanced weapon system command and control (C2) and image processing capability to UK Dragonfire, in addition to co-ordinating the overall effort.
Known as the Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) Capability Demonstrator Programme (CDP), the effort will see UK Dragonfire trial this new sovereign capability in the maritime and land domains in 2019.
Among the uses of LDEW systems are providing very short-range air defence capability, close-in protection for naval vessels, to counter-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and protecting friendly forces from mortar and artillery attack.