The United Kingdom has conducted the first high-power firing of a laser weapon against airborne targets during an evaluation at the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Hebrides Range. Led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the agency has been collaborating with major industry players inlcuidng MBDA, Leonardo and QinetiQ to perfect the system in a USD127 million joint investment between the MOD and private sector.
Named the DragonFire, it is a line-of-sight laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system capable of engaging any visible target it can set its sights on, at the speed of light. Its range, however, remains classified. The DragonFire uses an intense beam of light to cut through its target which would lead to the structural failure of the target.
“This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionise the battlespace by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage. Investments with industry partners in advanced technologies like DragonFire are crucial in a highly contested world, helping us maintain the battle-winning edge and keep the nation safe,” said Defence Secretary Grant Shapp.
Among the advantages of the system cited was its relatively lower cost of operation, potentially serving as a long-term low-cost alternative to missiles. The cost of the DragonFire is usually not more than USD12 per shot, where firing the weapon for 10 seconds is the cost equivalent of a regular heater turned on for an hour.
Its successful test-firing represents a major milestone to introducing such technology into the armed forces, particularly the British Army and Royal Navy who are said to be highly interested in possibly applying the DragonFire for future Air Defence missions. On the heels of this achievement, the MOD announced its plans to fund the programme with the hopes of using the technology on the battlefield. shp/adj/dl (Pix:UK Ministry of Defence)