All posts by Dmitry Shulgin

Electromagnetic Railgun

September 28, 2023, the European Defence Agency (EDA) hosted the final meeting of the PILUM (Projectiles for Increased Long-range effects Using electroMagnetic railgun) project, which focuses on a disruptive concept for an ElectroMagnetic RailGun (EMRG) – a future complementary artillery system with the potential of significantly higher projectile velocities and long-range effect. Launched in April 2021, with funding from the European Commission (EC) under the Preparatory Action for Defence Research (PADR), today’s meeting focused on the main research topics studied within PILUM and the results obtained for each of the three components of the EMRG: the railgun, the hypersonic projectile and electric energy storage and conversion.

lectromagnetic Railgun (EMRG)
Ambitious electromagnetic railgun project surpasses expectations, raising potential of future artillery systems

All seven partners from four European countries working together on this study agreed that significant advancements in the three key areas of electromagnetic artillery were made. This progress sets the stage for the future of advanced electromagnetic weaponry. The achievements in the PILUM project serve as a strong foundation for the next phase called THEMA (Technology for Electromagnetic Artillery) and launched under the EC’s European Defence Fund (EDF). THEMA’s goal is to prepare for the testing of an electromagnetic railgun on a firing range by 2028.

Projectiles for increased long-range effects using electromagnetic railgun
Projectiles for increased long-range effects using electromagnetic railgun


PILUM – Progress on three key components

Across the results obtained for each of the three components of the EMRG significant findings were reported in the final meeting. The railgun launcher’s critical components, exposed to extreme heat and high-speed friction, were protected with special wear-resistant materials, which significantly extended the railgun barrel’s lifespan.

The project also developed a concept for hypervelocity projectiles for speeds up to MACH 6. The performance of the projectile concept was extensively assessed at MACH 5 through wind tunnel experiments and computer simulations.

Additionally, the PILUM project explored various energy supply ideas, such as capacitive and inductive energy concepts. The capacitive system demonstrated a 25% increase in energy density under specific operational conditions. Another promising solution, the XRAM inductive energy concept, showed potential for storing magnetic energy efficiently, with ongoing work to address its technological challenges in the maturation phase (THEMA project).

XRAM inductive energy concept
XRAM inductive energy concept

Airborne Early Warning

Saab has presented the first Saab 340 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft to the customer during a ceremony in Linköping. The event took place in Linköping on 29 September, just two months after Poland placed an order for two AEW aircraft.

Saab 340 AEW
Saab unveils first airborne surveillance system for Poland

Guests from Sweden and Poland attended the event, which marked a milestone towards the rapidly proceeding delivery to Poland of the Saab 340 AEW equipped with the Erieye radar. The solution will provide Poland’s Armed Forces with a national asset to reinforce territorial integrity and national security.

The fast pace is a result of the efficient collaboration between Saab and the Polish Armed Forces and the fact that Saab has an ongoing production line for airborne early warning solutions. This includes dedicated personnel and in-house expertise to perform all kinds of tests and evaluations for the necessary approval of the systems.

“We are honoured to provide this important capability to Poland and proud to be quickly progressing towards the delivery of this airborne early warning system to the Polish Armed Forces,” says Carl-Johan Bergholm, head of Saab’s business area Surveillance.

Saab 340 AEW, together with associated ground equipment, provides a detailed situational picture that can be used for military and civilian tasks including air surveillance and rescue operations.

Different configurations of Saab’s Erieye Airborne Early Warning/Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW/AEW&C) system have been sold to nine countries, making it one of the most widely used airborne surveillance systems in the world.

Pressure hull complete

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shared on September 27, 2023 that its Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division has reached a significant milestone in the construction of Virginia-class submarine USS Arkansas (SSN-800).

USS Arkansas (SSN-800)
HII marks USS Arkansas (SSN-800) construction milestone at Newport News Shipbuilding

USS Arkansas (SSN-800) is now «pressure hull complete», meaning that all of the hull sections were joined to form a single, watertight unit.

«It’s exciting to reach pressure hull complete, because it’s a visible sign that construction has progressed to the point where Arkansas really starts to take its final shape», said Jason Ward, NNS vice president of Virginia-class submarine construction. «We absolutely understand the important mission ahead for Arkansas and are working with urgency to get this powerful national security asset to the Navy as soon as possible».

NNS is one of only two shipyards capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines. The advanced capabilities of Virginia-class submarines increase firepower, maneuverability and stealth.

This milestone comes following the christening of USS Massachusetts (SSN-798) and keel authentication of USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) at NNS so far in 2023.

Arkansas is the Navy’s 27th Virginia-class fast attack submarine. The ship’s sponsors are the six women of the historic group known as the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during desegregation. NNS honored all nine members, including the three men, during the November 2022 keel authentication ceremony.


General Characteristics

Builder General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. – Newport News Shipbuilding
Date Deployed October 3, 2004
Propulsion One GE PWR S9G* nuclear reactor, two turbines, one shaft; 40,000 hp/30 MW
Length 377 feet/114.8 m
Beam 33 feet/10.0584 m
Hull Diameter 34 feet/10.3632 m
Displacement Approximately 7,800 tons/7,925 metric tons submerged
Speed 25+ knots/28+ mph/46.3+ km/h
Diving Depth 800+ feet/244+ m
Crew 132: 15 officers; 117 enlisted
Armament: Tomahawk missiles Two 87-in/2.2 m Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles
Armament: MK-48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability) Mod 7 heavyweight torpedoes 4 torpedo tubes
Weapons MK-60 CAPTOR (Encapsulated Torpedo) mines, advanced mobile mines and UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles)

* – Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories


Nuclear Submarine Lineup


Block IV

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-792 Vermont EB 10-20-18 04-18-20 Groton, Connecticut
SSN-793 Oregon EB 10-05-19 05-28-22 Groton, Connecticut
SSN-794 Montana NNS 09-12-20 06-25-22 Norfolk, Virginia
SSN-795 Hyman G. Rickover EB 07-31-21
SSN-796 New Jersey NNS 11-13-21
SSN-797 Iowa EB 06-17-23
SSN-798 Massachusetts NNS 05-06-23
SSN-799 Idaho EB Under Construction
SSN-800 Arkansas NNS Under Construction
SSN-801 Utah EB Under Construction


Raimondo Montecuccoli

September 27, 2023, the delivery of the third Multipurpose Offshore Patrol ship (PPA) «Raimondo Montecuccoli» (P432) took place at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Muggiano.

Raimondo Montecuccoli (P432)
Fincantieri delivers the third PPA «Raimondo Montecuccoli» in Muggiano

The ceremony was attended, among others, by Vice Admiral Antonio Natale, Commandant of the Navy Schools and Institutes, Emanuele Coletti, Deputy Director of Naval Armaments – NAVARM and Mr. Joachim Sucker, OCCAR Director, welcomed by the General Manager of the Naval Vessels Division Dario Deste.

This vessel is part of the renewal plan of the operational lines of the Italian Navy vessels, approved by the Government and Parliament and started in May 2015 («Naval Act») under the aegis of OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Cooperation sur l’Armement, the international organization for cooperation on arms).


Vessel’s characteristics: PPA – Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship

The multipurpose offshore patrol vessel is a highly flexible ship with the capacity to serve multiple functions, ranging from patrol with sea rescue capacity to Civil Protection operations and, in its most highly equipped version, first line fighting vessel. There will be indeed different configurations of combat system: starting from a «soft» version for the patrol task, integrated for self-defence ability, to a «full» one, equipped for a complete defence ability. The vessel is also capable of operating high-speed vessels such as RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) up to 11 meters/36 feet long through lateral cranes or a hauling ramp located at the far stern.

  • 133 meters/436.4 feet long.
  • Speed more than 31 knots/35.7 mph/57.4 kph according to vessel configuration and operational conditions.
  • 171 persons of the crew.
  • Equipped with a combined diesel, a gas turbine plant (CODAG) and an electric propulsion system.
  • Capacity to supply drinking water to land.

The Multipurpose Offshore Patrol ships will be built at the Integrated Shipyard of Riva Trigoso and Muggiano, with deliveries expected until 2026.


Raimondo Montecuccoli, from Modena, was a general in service within the Austrian Empire. He participated with great success in all the wars fought in Europe – between 1625 and 1675 – by the Habsburg monarchy against the Dutch, Swedes, Turks and French. Initiated to a career in the church, he instead chose the military career with determination, serving the Empire and standing out in several campaigns during the Thirty Years’ War. From 1648, he held a series of very important diplomatic positions in Italy and Europe. At the peak of his career, he became the rank of General Lieutenant of the Empire (1609-1681).

He was a man with a unique culture, a very successful military writer (he was the first to further explore his studies in personnel and logistics), and was mentioned by Ugo Foscolo as the greatest and most learned Italian men at arms.

His name was previously attributed to a light cruiser of the same-named class. Unit characterized by the reputation of a lucky ship, in the headlines since 1937, when she was sent, with only twenty-four hours notice, to China. Protagonist of the battle of Pantelleria, on June 15, 1942, the vessel resulted in the loss of the destroyer «Bedouin», the «Kentucky» tank, as well as in the damage to the cruiser «Cairo», the destroyers «Ithuriel» and «Partridge», and the minesweeper «Hebe».

JS Niyodo (FFM-7)

According to Naval News, named Niyodo, the Mogami-class vessel (pennant number FFM-7) entered the water during a ceremony held on September 26 at the company’s Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagasaki Prefecture. It is expected to enter Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) service sometime in fiscal year 2024 after the fitting out stage of the frigate and a variety of performance tests.

JS Niyodo (FFM-7)
Japanese shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) launched on September 26, 2023 the seventh (of a planned fleet of 12) Mogami-class multirole frigate for the JMSDF

The vessel is named after the Niyodo River, a river in the Shikoku region of southwestern Japan. All ships of the class are named after famous rivers in Japan. There was another JMSDF ship with the same name, which is JDS Niyodo (DE-221), or the seventh Chikugo-class ship. JDS Niyodo (DE-221) was launched in August 1973 and decommissioned in June 1999.

JS Niyodo (FFM-7) is being built for about 47.4 billion yen ($318 million) under a contract awarded in March 2022, according to info obtained from the JMSDF and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).


Mogami-class specifications and systems

As with the other ships of the class, Niyodo has a full load displacement of about 5,500 tons (a standard displacement of 3,900 tons), with a length of 132.5 meters/434.7 feet, a beam of 16.3 meters/53.5 feet, a hull draught of 9 meters/29.5 feet, according to MHI. This compact hull makes it fast and maneuverable, with a top speed of more than 30 knots/34.5 mph/55.5 kph.

The Mogami-class frigate has a low crew complement of about 90 sailors (out of whom 10 are female), indicating a high level of automation on board.

The JMSDF has repeatedly emphasized that the Mogami-class is the first JMSDF vessels aimed at saving manpower and reducing ship construction costs, taking into consideration the JMSDF’s manpower shortage and Japan’s tight finances being caused by the declining birthrate and aging population.

For reference, the JMSDF’s Asahi-class destroyer JS Shiranui (DD-120), built at the same shipyard in Nagasaki, has a standard displacement of 5,100 tons, a length of 151 meters/495.4 feet, and a beam of 18.3 meters/60 feet, all of which clearly show how compact the FFM hull is. In addition, the Asahi-class has a crew complement of about 230, meaning the Mogami-class requires less than half the manpower to operate. On top of this, the construction cost of the Mogami-class is only about two-thirds of that of the Asahi-class, which costs more than 70 billion yen per ship ($470 million).

The Mogami-class is powered by a COMbined Diesel And Gas (CODAG) propulsion system featuring two MAN 12V28/33D STC diesel engines and one Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine, which provide a total of 70,000 horsepower/51.5 MW. The Mogami class marks the first installment of a CODAG system on any JMSDF ship.

Armaments on the frigates include a BAE Systems 5-inch (127-mm)/62-caliber naval gun on the foredeck of the ship, two launchers for a total of eight MHI Type 17 anti-ship missiles, also known as the SSM-2, and a Raytheon 11-cell SeaRAM Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) that can deploy RIM-116C Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs).

The frigates are also equipped with the OQQ-25 variable depth sonar and towed array sonar systems for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations. The ships will also be equipped with a MK41 Vertical Launch System (VLS).


Mogami-class as a Mothership

Besides anti-air, anti-surface and ASW capabilities, the Mogami-class has also been designed to undertake operations as a «mother ship» for an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) and an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), both of which will see the first installment on any Japanese frigate ever. This aims to enhance the UUV’s Mine CounterMeasure (MCM) functions.

ATLA has said that the Mogami-class will be equipped with MHI’s OZZ-5 used for MCM operations as a UUV.

The system serves an automatic detection and classification function to alleviate operator workload in processing collected data.

The OZZ-5 UUV, which measures 4 meters/13.1 feet long and 0.5 meter/1.64 foot wide with a displacement of 950 kg/1094 lbs., is equipped with Japan’s NEC-made low-frequency Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) and France’s Thales-made high-frequency SAS combinedly, which is designed to ensure a robust MCM capability for the detection and classification of different mine threats in a range of environments.

The UUV is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.


Mogami-class missions

According to the JMSDF, the Mogami-class is intended for surveillance missions in waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago, including the East China Sea. It will be equipped with enhanced multirole capabilities, including the ability to conduct anti-mine warfare operations, which until recently had been mainly performed by the JMSDF’s ocean-going minesweepers.

As neighboring China expands the size and capabilities of its naval forces, the Mogami-class is intended for surveillance missions in waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago. In particular, the JMSDF plans to enhance maritime security to defend the southwestern Nansei Islands, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, by boosting its patrol activities using compact FFM multi-mission frigates. The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.


FFM program: What’s next?

The JMSDF had originally planned to build a total of 22 Mogami-class frigates as Tokyo ramps up efforts to strengthen the country’s naval forces under its Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) for fiscal years 2019-23, which was approved in December 2018.

However, in late August 2023, the defense ministry for the first time explained at its budget request for the next fiscal year 2024 that it has decided to now procure a total of only 12 such frigates until 2023, with plans to construct a new class of 12 FFMs from fiscal year 2024. The new frigates will be virtually improved Mogami-class ships.

The new-class FFM will be fitted with longer-range missiles, enhanced anti-submarine capabilities, and improved capabilities for various maritime operations.

Specifically, the ship-launched, improved version of the Type 12 SSM and the new Ship-to-Air guided Missile (or simply A-SAM) will be equipped with the new-class FFM, defense officials said.

The MoD documents, released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on August 31, said the new-class FFM has a standard displacement of 4,500 tons. Meanwhile, according to MHI’s proposal of the new-class FFM, which was officially released by the ATLA on August 25, the new warship class will feature a heavier standard displacement of about 4,880 tons, a greater overall length of about 142 meters/465.9 feet, and a wider overall beam of about 17 meters/55.8 feet. The new vessels have a top speed of more than 30 knots/34.5 mph/55.5 kph, according to MHI’s proposal. Despite the fact the new class will be bigger than Mogami-class, defense officials said the new class’s crew complement will be only 90, the same as that of the Mogami-class. To achieve this, Japanese naval planners have likely incorporated the new class with a higher level of automation and deployed extensive lean-manning concepts throughout the vessel.

Stand-in Attack Weapon

Northrop Grumman Corporation announced on September 25, 2023 the U.S. Air Force has awarded the company an approximately $705 million contract to deliver the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW), an air-to-ground weapon that accelerates the pivot to a new generation of air power.

Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW)
Northrop Grumman’s SiAW rapidly delivers state-of-the-art technology built into mature, low-risk, proven missile capabilities (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)
  • Northrop Grumman’s SiAW leverages the company’s weapons systems design, development and production expertise to deliver on the Air Force’s digital engineering priorities and accelerate capability for the warfighter.
  • During the next 36 months, Northrop Grumman will further develop the weapon, conduct platform integration and complete the flight test program for rapid prototyping in preparation for rapid fielding. Work will be performed at the company’s Northridge, California facility and its factory of the future for missile integration at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in West Virginia.



Susan Bruce, vice president, advanced weapons, Northrop Grumman: «Northrop Grumman’s SiAW delivers on the Air Force’s desire for its first digital weapons acquisition and development program. With our expert digital engineering capabilities, this next-generation missile represents an adaptable, affordable way for the Department of Defense to buy and modernize weapons».


Details on SiAW and Phase 2 Development

SiAW is an air-to-ground weapon that will provide strike capability to defeat rapidly relocatable targets as part of an enemy’s anti-access/area denial environment. To adapt to ever-changing threats, the missile design features open architecture interfaces that will allow for rapid subsystem upgrades to field enhanced capabilities to the warfighter.

Phase 2 development is a continuation of the Air Force requirement for this first-of-its-kind Middle Tier Acquisition large weapon program focused on digital engineering, Weapon Open System Architecture and agility. The Air Force is targeting an initial operational capability by 2026. Phase 2 consists of two primary increments:

  • Phase 2.1 concludes with a guided vehicle flight test;
  • Phase 2.2 concludes with three additional flight tests and the delivery of SiAW leave-behind prototype missiles and test assets.

The development of SiAW is part of Northrop Grumman’s broad offerings in advanced weapons, including armaments, components, missiles, electronics and interceptors to defeat and deter threats.

Short Range Air Defense

The U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, known as RCCTO, announced the successful delivery of four cutting-edge Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, prototype systems to the 4th Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (ADAR) at Fort Sill. Delivering the platoon of prototypes marks a pivotal milestone for RCCTO’s DE M-SHORAD Project Management Office, led by Colonel Steven D. Gutierrez, and represents a major landmark accomplishment for the entire team involved.

Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery Regiment are positioned alongside four Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) prototype systems (4th Battalion, 60th Air Defense Artillery Regiment)

This momentous delivery coincides with the historic reactivation of the 4-60th ADAR in March of 2022 and the subsequent reactivation of its Delta Battery in June of this year. It signifies the continued smooth transition of the 4-60th ADAR from the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command to the 1st Armored Division, which took place in November 2022.

To prepare for the integration of these groundbreaking laser weapon systems, 4-60th ADAR commenced training in fall 2022. Drivers underwent rigorous training utilizing a surrogate M-SHORAD vehicle specially constructed to replicate the DE M-SHORAD prototype’s size, weight, and power. Additionally, the crews skillfully simulated the execution of the structure of an attack or «kill chain» on the Virtual Crew Trainer Operating Systems provided by the RCCTO.

In March 2023 at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, crews from 4-60th ADAR and the DE M-SHORAD prototype team came together to conduct a highly successful capability demonstration during a Live Fire Exercise. The event showcased the remarkable potential of these prototypes and left a lasting impression on participants and viewers.

«The delivery of DE M-SHORAD prototypes to the 4-60th ADAR represents a transformational milestone in the Army’s modernization campaign. It is an achievement that adds what was often thought of as a next generation capability, now», stated Colonel Gutierrez. «These high energy laser systems will be a game-changer on the contemporary battlefield, a critical component of an integrated, layered, and in-depth air missile defense for division and brigade maneuver formations».

Colonel Gutierrez continued, «I couldn’t be prouder of our team. The Directed Energy Project Office took nascent technologies and accelerated their maturation and development to put hardware in the hands of Soldiers in record time. This will prove to be a deterrent as well as an effective weapon system against relevant threat sets that requires minimal logistical support versus traditional and legacy systems».

Receiving these groundbreaking systems enables the 4-60th ADAR Delta Battery to embark on collective training with kinetic variants of the DE M-SHORAD, as they were concurrently received in June 2023. This opportunity allows for enhanced evaluation of the integration and employment of these systems within the Army’s integrated and layered air missile defense architecture, as well as their structural alignment within division formations.

Lieutenant Colonel Alex Corby, former 4-60th ADAR battalion commander, notes, «The delivery of the DE M-SHORAD prototypes marks an extraordinary advancement in our military capabilities. Today, Delta Battery etches its name in the annals of military history as the Army’s first-ever tactical Directed Energy capable unit. With cutting-edge technology at their disposal, they are pioneers, forging a path towards a more formidable and agile future for our forces».

Looking ahead, in partnership with the Army Test and Evaluation Command, the Army plans to employ these prototypes in a Soldier Touchpoint in FY24. This assessment will provide invaluable insights into the capabilities and limitations of these cutting-edge systems, aiding the Army in its ongoing quest for innovation and progress.

The RCCTO, alongside its dedicated partners and 4-60th ADAR, remains steadfast in its commitment to innovation and excellence. Together, they forge a path towards a future where cutting-edge technologies like the DE M-SHORAD prototype system pave the way for an enhanced and robust national defense.

AI-enabled air vehicle

The Air Force demonstrated Artificial Intelligence-enabled (AI-enabled) air combat during a successful launch of an XQ-58A Valkyrie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, August 22.

XQ-58 Valkyrie
A XQ-58 Valkyrie launches for a test mission August 22 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The mission successfully tested components that greatly reduce the risk of large scale crewed and uncrewed autonomous systems (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lieutenant Rebecca Abordo)

This flight helps develop a trained tactical autonomy algorithm from simulation through flight test on a high-performance, uncrewed air vehicle.

AI algorithms, developed and trained by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) Autonomous Air Combat Operations were integrated into an XQ-58A and flown in the Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range.

Trained through deep reinforcement learning, the AI algorithms used neural networks to fly the live air vehicle against simulated opponents using simulated mission systems and simulated weapons.

«AI testing requires combining new and traditional test and evaluation techniques. The team has a lot of lessons learned that will be used to inform future programs», said Ryan Bowers, lead test engineer for the effort.

The flight test, executed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron and supported by AFRL and Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, was a continuation of the successful July 25 test flight. The previous flight demonstrated an AI-enabled, high-performance, uncrewed air vehicle for the Department of Defense (DoD) and demonstrated standard aviation tasks, navigation tasks, and safety guardrails for risk mitigation and safety build-up.

«The opportunity to fly alongside this trained AI-piloted air vehicle really set into stone this technology is very real and here to stay», stated Captain Tyler Brown, lead test aircrew. «I feel we are at an inflection point of an exponential curve for the application of AI. It is imperative we understand the power of AI, its strengths and weaknesses, and that it is implemented in the right way».

The DoD is committed to the responsible employment of AI. To achieve responsible use of AI requires teaming of developers and users of AI-enabled autonomy working in collaboration with acquisition specialists.

«AI will be a critical element to future warfighting and the speed at which we’re going to have to understand the operational picture and make decisions», said Brigadier General Scott Cain, AFRL commander. «AI, autonomous operations, and human-machine teaming continue to evolve at an unprecedented rate, and we need the coordinated efforts of our government, academia, and industry partners to keep pace».

Laser Weapon

Laser Weapon Demonstrator (LWD) trials onboard the German frigate Sachsen (F219) have successfully been completed, following on from the integration of the LWD in June 2022.

Laser Weapon Demonstrator (LWD)
Bundeswehr successfully concludes laser weapon trials at sea

The High-Energy Laser Naval Demonstrator Working Group (or ARGE), consisting of MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Rheinmetall, is responsible for development and construction of the LWD, and for supporting the trials that were planned and organised by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).

During the trials, comprising six campaigns lasting nearly a year, the combat effectiveness of the LWD was proven in increasingly complex scenarios, under realistic operating conditions and against different target types. This included all LWD aspects: from detection and tracking (including highly agile targets); the interplay of sensors, command and weapon engagement systems, and effectors; possible rules of engagement; and of course the successful engagement of targets with a high-energy laser beam.

The LWD has performed more than a hundred test firings onboard the Sachsen and proved that a laser is capable of successfully engaging targets in a maritime environment. At the end of the trials, the LWD’s capabilities were successfully demonstrated at two VIP days in front of high-ranking representatives of the Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), the Germany Navy and Army, as well as the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning (PlgABw), which also included shooting down a drone. Also, representatives of the British, Netherlands, and Norwegian Navy participated during the demonstration. The huge success of the test campaign was due to excellent co-operation between the BAAINBw and its subordinate detachments, the German Navy and especially the crew of the frigate Sachsen (F219), and ARGE, the industry working group.

Following nearly a year of tests, the BAAINBw and the defence industry have gained valuable knowledge into the operational possibilities, performance capabilities and development potential of high-energy laser effectors. The demonstrator is currently undergoing detailed examination, after which it will be transferred to Bundeswehr Tech­nical Centre 91 in Meppen. The test results and subsequent analysis will be used for mini­mizing risks in a possible next phase i.e. the development of an operational laser weapon system.

The prerequisites for the development of a first laser weapon have generally been set. Both companies have launched internal preparations for the development phase within their own field of responsibility.

Complementing gun-based systems and guided missiles, an operational laser weapon system lends itself particularly well to countering the threat from drones, drone swarms, speedboats and possibly missiles at close to very close range. In the future it could also undergo a performance upgrade for destroying supersonic missiles, rockets and mortar and artillery rounds.

Australian Triton

Northrop Grumman Corporation will produce an additional MQ-4C Triton multi-intelligence uncrewed aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) following the Australian government’s decision to provide funding. The contract award will bring the total fleet size in Australia to four aircraft. Additionally, Northrop Grumman Australia has been selected by the Australian government to maintain the Triton fleet from two locations: RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and RAAF Tindal, Northern Territory.

MQ-4C Triton
Australia’s first multi-intelligence MQ-4C Triton at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)

«The addition of a fourth aircraft will enhance the resilience of the fleet and will provide superior surveillance capability to monitor and protect Australia’s maritime interests 24/7», said Christine Zeitz, chief executive and general manager, Australia & New Zealand, Northrop Grumman. «We are committed to keeping Australia safe and this sovereign surveillance capability will not only contribute to, but also significantly enhance a wide range of missions».

Triton will help Australia meet its security challenges by providing maritime monitoring of the vital sea lanes in the Indo-Pacific. These systems will have a vital role to play not just as sensors, but also as communication platforms that can facilitate the transfer of data across warfighting domains and various mission needs.

The Australian Tritons already under contract are progressing as planned through their production schedules. The inaugural flight of Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton will occur later this year at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center in California. This will mark a major production milestone in the delivery of the first aircraft to Australia in 2024.

Northrop Grumman Australia will establish a dynamic support environment for progressive delivery of capability systems into Australia. This includes establishment of ground stations into RAAF Edinburgh and air vehicles into RAAF Tindal. Northrop Grumman Australia is building a highly qualified and capable Australian workforce across both locations to leverage the extensive knowledge and experience of Northrop Grumman in supporting U.S. Navy Triton operations.

Australia is part of the Triton cooperative program and is contributing to shaping the requirements of the system. Together, U.S. and Australian defence forces will be able to share data collected by their respective Tritons, a critical ability in one of the world’s most strategically important regions.