The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has successfully tested a high-power laser weapon on aerial targets for the first time.
Aimed at providing UK armed forces with an accurate weapon that reduces reliance on high-cost ammunition, the DragonFire laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) was fired during trials at the MOD’s Hebrides Range off the northwest coast of Scotland.

The weapon’s range is classified, but it can engage with “any visible target”, a government announcement said.

LDEWs use an intense beam of light to cut through targets, leading to structural failure or more significant damage if a missile warhead is targeted. The precision required is equivalent to hitting a £1 coin from a kilometre away, the announcement said.

With a cost per shot that is typically less than £10, the weapon could be a long-term, low-cost alternative to missiles in certain scenarios.

DragonFire is led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) on behalf of the MOD, working with industry partners MBDA, Leonardo and Qinetiq.

The tests demonstrated the ability to engage aerial targets at “relevant ranges”, the government said, and are a major step in bringing the technology into service. Both the Army and Royal Navy are considering using the technology for air defence.

The latest milestone builds on a series of successful trials, including demonstration of the DragonFire system’s ability to track moving air and sea targets with very high accuracy at range.

The MOD recently announced its intention to fund a multi-million-pound programme to transition the technology from research to the battlefield.

DSTL chief executive Dr Paul Hollinshead said: “These trials have seen us take a huge step forward in realising the potential opportunities and understanding the threats posed by directed energy weapons.”

extracted from IMechE website, read more here

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