Dragon Fire | UK Royal Navy’s laser system delivered 5 years earlier
Defence Redefined
Published on 14/04/2024 at 14:41

The UK laser programme “DragonFire” is accelerating following a decision from the UK Ministry of Defence to install the weapon system on Royal Navy ships as soon as possible.

The programme is led by MBDA in a partnership with Leonardo UK and QinetiQ under contract from Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence. 

Specifically, the Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) in question will be installed on Royal Navy warships for the first time as of 2027, 5 years earlier than previously envisaged thanks to a new defence procurement model which has come into force recently. 

Laser weapons were originally expected to be rolled out to UK Armed Forces in 2032, but the lessons learned from the battlefield in Ukraine and elsewhere have hastened the overall process of defence procurement. 

The DragonFire can fire at any target visible in the line of sight at £10 cost per shot, given the vessels’ high volume energy production capacity. Its accuracy is equivalent to hitting a pound coin from a kilometre away. The weapon system will provide highly effective defence against drone and missile threats, according to the UK Ministry of Defence. 

Also read: DragonFire laser | Firing trials against aerial targets complete successfully

According to a relevant announcement, the decision, announced by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, will see the DragonFire laser weapon system rapidly develop from a demonstration programme to an operational capability for the Royal Navy. The next stages of this development will include further live firings and the manufacture and installation of the weapon system onto Royal Navy platforms.  

The UK DragonFire programme is a flagship example of the Government’s new Integrated Procurement Model, designed to reform defence procurement and drive increased pace in the delivery of military capability.

The programme leverages MBDA’s weapon system manufacturing expertise, Leonardo’s position in laser technology, electro-optics and advanced targeting and QinetiQ’s experience as the only UK company to develop high-energy laser sources in the UK and coherent beam-combining technology.

Also read: DragonFire | Static high power laser weapon system successfully trialled

Except for the UK, Israel already has laser systems in place (Iron Beam), while several other states, including the USA, have been testing various solutions for some time, but they have not yet been universally implemented.




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