'First for UK industry!' Dragonfire super laser weapon moves step closer to production

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Dragonfire is a Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW), which has been developed by a consortium led by MBDA in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence. Other companies involved in the project include Leonardo, QinetiQ, Arke, BAE Systems, Marshall and GKN. The new UK sovereign capability is designed to provide short-range air defence and close-in protection for naval vessels.

One of the major challenges in developing a LDEW is safely controlling and focusing high laser power onto an extremely precise point, at long range.

Dragonfire’s manufacturers said initial trials showed the system could successfully track air and sea targets with “exceptionally high accuracy”.

In a statement, MBDA UK said the success of the first trials paved the way for the next phase that will “deliver a first for UK industry.”

Chris Allam, the firm’s managing director, said: “The success of these trials is a key step in the development of sovereign laser directed energy weapons.

“It is the culmination of a lot of hard work from both the industry and Dstl teams.

“It has overcome disruption due to COVID and technical challenges from the use of unique innovations in Dragonfire that are testing the very limits of what is physically possible in the laser weapons domain.”

Dragonfire was first unveiled to the public in 2017 at the Defence and Security Equipment International conference in London.

A contract worth £30 million was subsequently awarded by the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory to the consortium led by MBDA.

The British Government has since invested more money in developing advanced advanced laser and radio frequency demonstrators as part of the Novel Weapons Programme (NWP).

The Ministry of Defence claims these next-generation technologies, known collectively as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), could revolutionise the battlefield and reduce the risk of collateral damage.

Last September the Ministry awarded three contracts worth round £72.5-million to UK industry to produce more of these weapons.

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The four-year contracts are expected to create at least 49 new jobs and sustain 249 jobs.

Jeremy Quin, a Minister for Defence at the time, said: “We are investing £6.6-billion in research and development across Defence over the next four years, reaffirming our commitment to provide the Armed Forces with truly advanced capabilities.

“Directed Energy Weapons are a key element of our future equipment programmes and we intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology.”

The groundbreaking new technologies will be integrated onto existing platforms for the Royal Navy and British Army.

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They are expected to undergo extensive trials from 2023 to 2025.

Shimon Fhima, the MOD director of strategic programmes told journalists in September last year: “These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the future battlefield for our Armed Forces.

“They will enable the prosecution of new targets in the land, sea and air domains and allow commanders to meet mission objectives in new ways.

“We must exploit at pace the cutting-edge technologies developed by the talented scientists and engineers across the UK to capitalise on its benefit.”

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