16 September 2016
With a name like “Dragonfire” it sounds like science fiction but laser weapons could be about to become science fact for UK forces.
British defence and technology companies have come together to develop the UK’s first laser weapon, which could be mounted on ships to shoot down enemy jets and missiles or even used by ground forces to destroy incoming mortar rounds.
The Ministry of Defence is finalising a £30m contract to build a technology demonstrator which will evaluate lasers and examine how they could be deployed by Britain’s forces.
Dragonfire will be tested to see how it can identify and track targets at different ranges and in a variety of weather conditions.
If it is deemed viable, it could replace conventional systems, offering a lower cost and more efficient alternative to current weapons. A laser only needs a power source to fire, whereas conventional weapons need ammunition or use missiles, which relatively expensive and take up space.
The prototype is expected to be delivered in 2019 and is being built by a consortium led by Stevenage-based missile maker MBDA. Also involved are QinetiQ, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall.
Dragonfire is one the systems being developed under the MoD’s £800m Innovation Fund, which aims to tap British ingenuity to give the UK military an advantage in battle and new capabilities by using advanced technology.
Dave Armstrong, MBDA technical director, said: "Dragonfire will put the UK at the forefront of high energy laser systems, capitalising on the joint experience of the MoD and industry in the complex weapons environment.
"It also advances the UK towards a future product with significant export potential, as well as providing opportunities for partnerships with other nations’ armed forces that have similar requirements.”
Norman Bone, managing director of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, which is
contributing the systems which will direct the Dragonfire's laser
beam, added: "This demonstrator will be at the forefront of UK
technology research and fits within our strategy to develop the next
generation of laser systems.”