Wed, 28 Sep 2022

French government orders laser weapon for Paris Olympics

Robert Besser
12 Aug 2022, 03:05 GMT+10

PARIS, France: The French Ministry of the Armed Forces has announced that it has ordered a prototype of an anti-drone laser weapon system, called HELMA-P, to protect against drone attacks during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"The HELMA-P system provides a calibrated response to the drone threat, from dazzling the drone's observation instruments to the destruction of a mini or micro drone, weighing from 100g to 25kg, by altering its structure, causing it to fall in a few seconds," the ministry said in a statement.

This prototype will also help "deepen the military's understanding of its deployment," as an anti-drone campaign is a priority laid out by the French Ministry of the Armed Forces for the 2019-2025 period, the statement added.

Security for the Olympics is the responsibility of the host country, the International Olympic Committee told CNN.

According to the chief engineer of weaponry at the ministry's General Directorate for Armament, the HELMA-P system can shoot powerful laser beams that heat up drones to a point where they either catch fire or overheat and shutdown.

Philippe Gros, senior research fellow at French security and defense think tank Foundation for Strategic Research, said that in recent years drone threats have increased exponentially, including for major events, such as the Olympics.

However, a powerful laser weapon being used in densely populated areas, such as Paris, has brought up safety concerns.

"An important part of the anti-drone laser program is the safe operation of this weapon," the ministry noted.

According to experts, a laser weapon system is one of the most cost-effective ways to counter drone threats in urban areas.

"One of the reasons lasers are interesting is that, compared to interception missiles, there are no explosives involved and even if the drone explodes, it is just its debris that will fall. In general, it brings less collateral damage," Gros told CNN.

"The problem is that drones are becoming more and more autonomous, they can fly many parts of the mission without an operator," he added.

"Anti-drone laser weapons still have many weaknesses. For example, bad weather can impact their accuracy and efficiency. The industry is still on a learning path," Gros said.

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