U.S. Navy to Equip Destroyer USS Preble with HELIOS Laser Weapon System

The U.S. Navy is planning to equip its destroyer USS Preble (DDG-88) with HELIOS laser weapon system by 2021, Defense News reported citing Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, the outgoing head of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Surface Warfare Directorate.

“We are making the decision to put the laser on our DDGs. It’s going to start with Preble in 2021, and when we do that, that will now be her close-in weapon that we now continue to upgrade”, Rear Adm. Boxall said.

USS Preble is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG) currently homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam (JBPHH) in Hawaii. If everything goes as planned, she will be the first Navy destroyer to be equipped with a high-energy laser system.

USS Preble (DDG-88)
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 13, 2011) An HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter lifts off from the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) after refueling. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd/Released)

The HELIOS (High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance) system is a 60-kilowatt laser system with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and counter-Unmanned Aerial System (counter-UAS) capabilities being developed by Lockheed Martin. The system has a “growth potential” to 150 kilowatts.

Lockheed Martin HELIOS system
Artist’s rendering of Lockheed Martin’s High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system. Credit: Lockheed Martin

A $150 million contract, with options worth up to $942.8 million, for the development, manufacture and delivery of two high power laser weapon systems was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2018. In this first increment of the U.S. Navy’s Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program, Lockheed Martin will deliver two units for test by fiscal year 2020. One unit will be delivered for shipboard integration, and one unit will be used for land testing at White Sands Missile Range.

“The system went through a design review with the Navy in March and that by the end of the year Lockheed will start systems integration at their Moorestown, New Jersey facility”, according to Brandon Shelton, Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS program director. Lockheed expects to complete integration by mid-2020, he added.

According to Lockheed Martin, HELIOS combines three key capabilities, brought together for the first time in one weapon system:

+ A high-energy laser system: The high-energy fiber laser will be designed to counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats. The energy and thermal management system will leverage Lockheed Martin experience on Department of Defense programs, and the cooling system will be designed for maximum adaptability onboard ships. In addition, Lockheed Martin will bring decades of shipboard integration experience, reducing risk and increasing reliability.

+ A long-range ISR capability: HELIOS sensors will be part of an integrated weapon system, designed to provide decision-makers with maximum access to information. HELIOS data will be available on the Lockheed Martin-developed Aegis Combat System currently installed on destroyers.

+ A counter-UAS dazzler capability: The HELIOS dazzler will be designed to obscure adversarial UAS-based ISR capabilities.

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