French navy vessel to test CILAS’ HELMA-P laser-based counter drone system

French defense company CILAS is due to test its HELMA-P laser platform on board a French navy vessel, according to new reports.

CILAS has been testing the laser system on target drones in France since last year, and it has shot down about three dozen so far. After the last trials finished on July 7, French armed forces minister Florence Parly said that given the promising results, the system deserved a test aboard a French Navy vessel.

In a statement, the Marine Nationale said that the HELMA-P turret has shown its capability on land, and it will be assessed aboard one of the service’s vessels in 2022. After an initial series of experiments to ensure that the system runs properly in the marine environment, the service will take it to sea and test it against live drones.

“The Navy is interested in laser weapons because combat ships have very high computing power, space, a lot of energy and refrigeration capacities which predispose them to receive high power lasers,” the service said. “These systems are capable of destroying or damaging many threats by controlling the effects and being able to renew the engagement without limitation.”

The HELMA-P system was designed from a joint relationship between CILAS and Ariane Group, whose development took place from 2017 to 2019. The system consists of a 2-axis turret with a set of optical sensors and the laser weapon itself which has a power of 2 Kilowatts. This turret is operated by a single operator through a man-machine interface. It has a capability to reach targets up to 1 kilometer away.

The U.S. Navy has tested a more powerful anti-drone laser system, LaWS, aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce. The German Navy is also testing a surface-to-air laser in the 20 kW class with technology provided by Rheinmetall, and the next step will be a year long trial phase onboard the frigate Sachsen, says Maritime Executive.

(Image: French Navy FREMM frigate fitted with a laser weapon system. French Navy)

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