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Surface Navy 2021: HELIOS begins US Navy laser testing at Wallops

Lockheed Martin’s High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) was delivered to the US Navy (USN) in late 2020 for ground-based testing at the USN’s test site on Wallops Island, Virginia, company officials said on 11 January during a media briefing that coincided with the virtual Surface Navy Association 2021 National Symposium, which began the same day.

HELIOS has been fully integrated with the Aegis Combat System and was tested at full power at Lockheed Martin facilities in New Jersey during November and December, company officials noted, adding the system will likely be ready to be placed on a USN guided-missile destroyer by about the third quarter of this calendar year.

The targeted ship for the HELIOS system is the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88).

HELIOS was developed to help USN ships counter unmanned aerial systems, fast attack boats and also counter intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, but Joe Ottaviano, Lockheed Martin business development director for Advanced Product Solutions, said the company had discovered capability beyond those basic missions for the system, especially when it was integrated with Aegis.

The system can be used to dazzle, burn holes and be employed “in some cases, even against missiles”, he said, adding HELIOS can provide “an area of defence”.

While Ottaviano would not discuss any HELIOS anti-missile potential in greater detail, Admiral Michael Gilday, the US chief of naval operations (CNO) has made it clear that is exactly a capability he would like to see developed for USN laser operations.

During a media roundtable discussion on 8 January to discuss his strategic plan for the service, “CNO Navigation Plan 2021”, Adm Gilday said the navy needed laser capability on its ships “primarily to knock down missiles”.

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