The German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) has successfully conducted the first operational test-firing of a high-energy laser (HEL) weapon against drones aboard a German Navy warship.

It was announced by MBDA Deutschland and Rheinmetall Waffe Munition.

Both the companies are part of the HEL Naval Demonstrator working committee (ARGE) and are responsible for the development of HEL weapon demonstrator.

The test was performed in the Baltic Sea, near Putlos Major Training Area, aboard the German Navy’s lead Sachsen-class frigate FGS Sachsen (F219) on 30 August.

During this test, the frigate successfully intercepted drones, both at short and very-short range.

Once fully-operation, the HEL weapon will allow naval forces to attack close/very close-range speed boats and counter drones/drone swarms.

According to MBDA and Rheinmetall officials, the recent trials will act as a significant step towards the objective of delivering laser weapon capability to the Bundeswehr.

Rheinmetall Waffe Munition naval demonstrator project manager Dr Thomas Baumgärtel said: “The impressive performance of the HEL effectors in protecting surface combatants from short- and very-short range threats can be credited to the joint efforts of everyone involved in the project – defence industry experts, government officials, and of course men and women of frigate Sachsen.”

The demonstrator was equipped with F219 in Kiel, after the successful completion of integration and test phase of the naval demonstrator in November 2021.

It was followed by the commencement of initial test campaign in Eckernförde Bay, in July this year.

The HEL weapon testing will continue until mid-2023 to assess the demonstrator’s capabilities in new environment and scenarios.