By Paolo Valpolini
The fight against Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) has become critical, especially after the lessons learned during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. At SOFINS, the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar, organised by the Cèrcle de l’Arbalète at Camp de Souges, north of Bordeaux, CILAS was presenting its HELMA, the acronym standing for High Energy Laser.
In fact HELMA is due to become a family of systems, CILAS planning to add to the current HELMA-P the HELMA-XP, the high power version aimed at neutralising not only UAS at longer ranges but also to act against the RAM (Rocket, Artillery, Mortar) threat, which will become available in 2027 according to the company roadmap.
Developed in cooperation with ArianeGroup, the HELMA-P is designed to counter Class 1 UAS. An 80 kg turreted system, its performances were demonstrated at the French DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) Biscarosse missile test range, showing its capacity to detect fine-track and neutralize a UAS, hitting exactly the portion selected by the operator, i.e. not neutralising the platform but killing the mission package, this not only thanks to the accurate aiming but also to the adjustable power output. No indication on maximum power are available, the company brochure mentioning a “multi-KW” level of power, the system having been tested up to 1 km range, the maximum for neutralisation, optical damages being obtainable up to 3 km according to CILAS. Beside the turret, the system also includes the battery pack needed to provide the required energy to the laser.
The turret features the collimator, the big diameter optic that allows to concentrate the laser beam at long range, a LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) provided by ArianeGroup that allows monitoring the surrounding airspace for safety measures, and narrow and wide field-of-view cameras. The HELMA-P was tested for several weeks at Biscarosse, the system being now considered at TRL 7. According to CILAS representatives, the company is working on a series of projects in cooperation with major French light armoured vehicles manufacturers such as Nexter, with its Serval 4×4 part of the Scorpion programme, as well as with Arquus, on Sherpa and Scarabée platforms, the latter being particularly suited for installing such a system thanks to its inherent energy production capability, being fitted with a hybrid propulsion system.
Photos courtesy CILAS