Army to trial new ‘Ocean’s Eleven style weapon’ that knocks out enemy’s electrics

By Sara Odeen-Isbister,
Published by MSN, 13 April 2024

The British Army is set to test a high-powered radio-frequency weapon that can knock out the enemy’s electrics and disable drones.

Experts have compared it to ‘the pinch’, a device that featured in the 2001 hit film, Ocean’s Eleven, about a group of con artists staging an elaborate casino heist.

The weapon, developed by scientists at the high-security Porton Down military research labs in Salisbury, Wiltshire, under the name of Project Ealing, uses radio-frequency to switch off devices reliant on electricity such as computers, telephones and drones.

The Hollywood version, ‘the pinch’, meanwhile, sent an intense electromagnetic pulse that blacked out the city’s power grid for a short time.

Speaking at a briefing, Matt Cork, an expert at Porton Down, compared the Project Ealing weapon to a ‘sledgehammer’ that hits its a circuit with a huge amount of power, overloads it and as a result turns it off.

‘Imagine a room full of computers, or a telephone exchange, anything that has got electricity flying through it, you can disrupt it,’ he said, according to The Times.

The weapon will be fitted to army support vehicles and trialled by the 7th Air Defence Group this summer.

Mr Cork said it could target the enemy in a non-lethal way, without ‘blowing stuff up’.

‘Just turning things off when we choose to turn things off leads to a potential where actually they [the enemy] stop trusting their own equipment,’ he explained.

‘It creates that element of doubt in their ability to use their equipment when they need to use it.’

The weapon could potentially be loaded on to the back of an army vehicle and used to protect a base or convoy from drone attacks.

Speaking on a visit to Porton Down, defence secretary Grant Shapps said that these types of weapons would have a ‘large part to play in future conflict’.

Mr Shapps also spoken about a new British military laser, that could be rushed on to the front line in Ukraine to take down Russian drones.

The DragonFire weapon, which is expected to be ready for deployment by 2027 at the latest, could have ‘huge ramifications’ for the conflict in Europe, the Defence Secretary said.

The DragonFire laser weapon system, which could be rushed on to the frontline in Ukraine to take down Russian drones (Picture: Ministry of Defence/Crown copyright/PA Wire) Image: Metro

New reforms aimed at speeding up procurement mean the laser, originally set to be rolled out in 2032, will now be operational five years earlier than planned, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Shapps said he would look to see if the pace can be increased even further ‘in order for Ukrainians perhaps to get their hands on it’.

‘I’ve come down to speed up the production of the DragonFire laser system because I think given that there’s two big conflicts on, one sea-based, one in Europe, this could have huge ramifications to have a weapon capable particularly of taking down drones,’ he said.

‘And so what I want to do is speed up what would usually be a very lengthy development procurement process, possibly up to 10 years, based on my conversations this morning, to a much shorter timeframe to get it deployed, potentially on ships, incoming drones, and potentially on land.’

A still taken from footage of the DragonFire laser weapon being tested (Picture: MOD/SWNS) Image: Metro

Laser-directed energy weapons (LDEWs) use an intense light beam to cut through their target and can strike at the speed of light.

The MoD hopes the DragonFire system will offer a low-cost alternative to missiles by carrying out tasks such as shooting down attack drones.

It has been developed by defence firms MBDA, Leonardo and QinetiQ and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

The new procurement reforms, which come into effect this week, are aimed at speeding up the process of getting cutting-edge developments in military capability like DragonFire out on to the field.

A mortar casing showing damage done by DragonFire (Picture: Ministry of Defence/Crown copyright/PA Wire)

‘It’s designed to not wait until we have this at 99.9% perfection before it goes into the field, but get it to sort of 70% and then get it out there and then… develop it from there,’ Mr Shapps said.

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