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MBDA and ALPhANOV inaugurate laser weapons lab

European weapons specialist MBDA and ALPhANOV have inaugurated their common Vulnerability Test Facility to conduct research and development and testing of laser weapons systems.

This new facility, 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 kilowatts and multiple measurement means (fast, visible and infrared imaging, pyrometers, thermocouples etc) to monitor the effects delivered by the lasers.

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This co-operation includes the completion of the VTF as well as its joint implementation for a four-year period.

MBDA chief executive Antoine Bouvier said, "Adding to MBDA’s unique technical capabilities in Europe, 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."

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 etc).

"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," Bouvier added. 

MBDA is involved in a number of laser weapons projects in Europe with a technology demonstrator being tested in Germany since 2015 and another in development in the UK (project DragonFire) since 2016. MBDA is the only European group capable of designing and producing missiles and missile systems that correspond to the full range of current and future operational needs of the three armed forces (land, sea and air).

With a significant presence in five European countries and within the US, the group offers a range of 45 missile systems and countermeasures products already in operational service and more than 15 others currently in development.

Established in 2007, ALPhANOV is the optics and lasers technology centre of the ALPHA-Route des Lasers & des Hyperfréquences cluster. It acts as a technology transfer accelerator and uses its expertise and know-how to serve innovative projects with industrial target short and mid-terms.

MBDA and ALPhANOV inaugurate laser weapons lab
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