in Defence

Rolls-Royce powers directed energy field tests in US

Posted 24 May 2022

Rolls-Royce has successfully demonstrated ‘deep magazine’ power capability for directed energy applications, powering multiple, extended laser field tests in collaboration with Lockheed Martin as part of the US Layered Laser Defense (LLD) project.

Image courtesy Rolls-Royce

Deep magazine power capability is crucial for directed energy applications, which can be limited by battery-only systems that require recharging or replacement of batteries after a short period of operation. The Rolls-Royce ColdFire system includes both battery-powered and near-continuous firing modes, through a compact and fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce M250 gas turbine engine which provides consistent, extended power to operate the laser application.

Powered by the Rolls-Royce system, Lockheed Martin’s laser weapon system successfully shot down flying targets during the recent field tests conducted in partnership with the Office of Naval Research at the US Army’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Craig McVay, Rolls-Royce Defense, Senior Vice President, said: “The Rolls-Royce ColdFire system successfully demonstrated extended firing capability during the field tests, proving the technology is ready to progress to customer applications. We built the most sophisticated power and thermal management system in the world, so we are ready for any challenge. Our US Department of Defense customers continue to express interest in Rolls-Royce directed energy power and cooling technology, and we look forward to briefing them on the outstanding results from the field tests.”

Lockheed Martin developed the 100kW-class LLD to demonstrate cutting-edge laser weapon system technologies in an integrated system. Compact but powerful, and coupled with a Rolls-Royce ColdFire power and thermal system, it provides nearly continuous firing capability to engage more types of targets, in larger numbers, with longer range, than previous systems.

Paul Shattuck, Lockheed Martin, Director of Directed Energy Systems, said: “Our industry team worked together in great partnership to bring forward critical knowledge to build this compact laser weapon system with a near-limitless magazine.”

Rolls-Royce developed and tested the ColdFire system for over 10 years with $50 million in company investment. In addition to providing power to the directed energy system, ColdFireTM offers unique and highly effective cooling technology to dissipate the large amount of heat generated by the laser system.

Rolls-Royce is an industry leader in thermal management – the company’s advanced gas-turbine engines operate at temperatures far greater than the melting point of metal. That requires sophisticated engineering technology that allows engines to operate safely and effectively for thousands of hours. Rolls-Royce has adapted this proven thermal management knowledge into the ColdFireTM system.

Rolls-Royce ColdFire is a suite of world-class power and thermal options for any directed energy system, with technology ready now and tailored to the needs of the system. With field-proven laser and platform integration, ColdFire is suitable for land, sea or air systems, and features thermal and power options for specific customer needs. Directed energy systems offer low cost per shot and reduced logistical burdens, while offering compelling capabilities against today’s stressing threats including counter-hypersonic, and are versatile and scalable. Regardless of power sources or platform, thermal management integration with the laser is critical to system effectiveness.

Rolls-Royce North America employs 5,000 people in 27 states and is one of the world's preeminent manufacturers of highly efficient, integrated power and propulsion solutions. Rolls-Royce power systems are used in aerospace, naval marine, energy and off-highway applications.

The ColdFire technology was developed in the company’s LibertyWorks advanced technology unit based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rolls-Royce products and services support customers across North America, including the US Department of Defense.

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