MBDA and ALPhANOV inaugurate test lab for laser weapons in France


On 27 March, In Bordeaux (France), MBDA and ALPhANOV inaugurated their common Vulnerability Test Facility (VTF). MBDA is a world leader in missile systems offering a comprehensive international product range incorporating today's most advanced innovations. ALPhANOV was built, from its inception, on experience in micro-machining developed by laser platform applications Aquitaine (PALA), which depends on the CELIA laboratory and was implemented by François SALIN.


MBDA and ALPhANOV inaugurate test lab for laser weapons in France 925 001
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 United Kingdom (project DragonFire) since 2016. (Picture source MBDA)


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 kW and multiple measurement means (fast, visible and infrared imaging, pyrometers, thermocouples, etc.) to monitor the effects delivered by the lasers. This cooperation includes the completion of the VTF as well as its Joint Implementation for a 4 years period.

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 optimization 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.).

CEO MBDA Antoine Bouvier said: “Adding to MBDA’s unique technical capabilities in Europe, the VTF may contribute to the on-going 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. 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.”


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