UK defence ministry and industry partners test long range directed energy weapon

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD’s) Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has hosted the UK’s first high-powered, long range laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) trial on its ranges at Porton Down.

According to a UK government press release:

“The trials involve firing the UK DragonFire demonstrator at a number of targets over a number of ranges, demanding pinpoint accuracy from the beam director. These tests improve the UK’s understanding of how high-energy lasers and their associated technologies can operate over distance and defeat representative targets. The ability to deliver high levels of laser power with sufficient accuracy are two of the major areas that need to be demonstrated in order to provide confidence in the performance and viability of LDEW systems.

“The programme has developed a UK sovereign ‘centre of excellence’ staffed with experts from multiple fields. Laser directed energy weapons have the potential to provide lower cost lethality, reduced logistical burden and increased effectiveness when compared to other weapon systems – the technology could have a huge effect on the future of defence operations.

“The programme’s specialist industry partners are:

  • MBDA, with overall responsibility for the system; MBDA has developed the advanced command and control (C2) and image processing capabilities
  • Leonardo, who has developed the beam director which can track and point at targets.
  • QinetiQ’s laser experts, who have built a phase-combined laser capable of generating in the order of 50kW of power, with the ability in the future to scale fire-power levels

Testing of the DragonFire system took place on Dstl’s Porton Down Range, which has defined distances over which the trial serials were conducted to a maximum distance of 3.4km from DragonFire.

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