The HELIOS (High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance) multifunctional combat laser system will be installed on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Preble this year, and will begin testing it in the sea. Its main tasks will be to destroy small ships and drones, monitor distant objects and blind the optical systems of opponents.
The combat laser system was successfully tested on six-square-mile Wallops Island in Accomack County, Virginia, part of the Virginia Barrier Islands that stretch along the US East Coast, last fall. Its installation on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Preble, testing at sea will be a new stage in testing its combat capabilities. The military plans to integrate HELIOS into the ship's Aegis combat information and control system and include it in the weapons component.
HELIOS has been developed by Lockheed Martin since 2018. It was planned to complete the work within three years, but a number of problems with technology and legislation forced the developer & nbsp; extend the duration of the program. As a reminder, lawmakers have limited the service to the purchase of one HELIOS device per year until the Pentagon provides a detailed contracting and acquisition strategy.
But recently, Lockheed Martin chief executive Janine Matthews, who oversees integrated combat systems, reported significant progress after & nbsp; HELIOS completed several breakthrough tests in the fall. Now the company expects these weapons to be installed aboard the Preble (DDG 88) and put to sea later this year. And it is necessary to conduct tests as soon as possible, otherwise problems with the further execution of the contract are foreseen.
The system consists of a combat laser with a power of 60 kilowatts, an optical subsystem for focusing the laser and observing distant objects, and a low-power laser that blinds the optical surveillance and guidance systems. For example, thermal imagers or electron-optical cameras. Under the contract, Lockheed Martin can supply the US Navy with up to nine serial HELIOS.
The military considers the main advantage of laser weapons to be their practically unlimited ammunition: the radiating installation fires until it ceases to receive energy from the power source. It is also assumed that lasers will provide relatively cheap and at the same time reliable protection of ships from surface boats, light aircraft and drones.
The US Naval Research and Development Office has been developing various lasers for several years, some of which have been successfully tested aboard warships. The first solid-state laser prototype was installed aboard the ship in 2014. Research is also under way on how optical directed energy weapon technology can advance the intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance of the US Navy.
At present, one combat laser system is in trial operation with the US Navy. We are talking about the complex LaWS (Laser Weapon System, laser weapons system), installed on the landing ship-dock “Ponce” type “Austin”, which is part of the Fifth Fleet of the US Navy (in the area of u200bu200bresponsibility — the western part of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf). This year, not only the Americans, but also the French are planning to test the laser at sea.