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Rolls-Royce ColdFire Powers a New Generation of Laser Weapons for the U.S. Navy

Last month, the U.S. Navy conducted what was called “a historic test” of a new all-electric laser weapon system that successfully engaged and destroyed a subsonic cruise missile in flight. The weapon was part of the Layered Laser Defense (LLD) project developed by Lockheed Martin and supported by the Rolls-Royce game-changing ColdFire system.
Rolls-Royce developed the ColdFire system that was successfully tested this year 6 photos
Lockheed Martin Laser Weapon SystemLockheed Martin Laser Weapon SystemLockheed Martin Laser Weapon SystemLockheed Martin Laser Weapon SystemLockheed Martin Laser Weapon System
Last year, Rolls-Royce delivered the ColdFire Solutions system that would power Lockheed Martin’s 100 kW directed energy weapon for advanced military applications. This year, the LLD proved its performance during field tests conducted with the Office of Naval Research, at the U.S. Army’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, in New Mexico.

According to Rolls-Royce, a battery-only laser weapon comes with the disadvantage of having to stop operating when batteries need to be recharged or replaced. This is why ColdFire combines a battery-powered firing mode with a near-continuous one, thanks to a compact and fuel-efficient M250 gas turbine engine.

This advanced power and thermal management system offer a deep magazine power capability, which translates to extended firing capability. This means that the laser weapon is able to engage more targets with a longer range.

Plus, Rolls-Royce included a cutting-edge cooling technology that helps disperse the huge amount of heat generated by the laser system. The company’s gas-turbine engines operate at temperatures higher than the melting point of metal while still able to maintain their efficiency for thousands of hours. ColdFire also incorporates this highly-efficient thermal management technology.

The ColdFire system was developed by the Rolls-Royce advanced technology unit called LibertyWorks, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. It took more than a decade to develop and test this advanced technology, the result of a $50 million investment.

The LLD is a versatile weapon meant to counter both unmanned aerial vehicles and fast-attack boats, using a high-resolution telescope and a high-power laser. It’s a modern type of laser running (partially) on electricity, which makes it safer and more affordable to operate. The LLD was developed for demonstration purposes only, but it could become the basis for a new generation of directed energy weapons.

Editor's note: Gallery showing various Lockheed Martin laser weapon systems

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