UK awards £30M contract for laser weapon development

Illustration: A laser weapon system aboard U.S. Navy's USS Ponce. Photo: US Navy

The UK government is setting aside £30 milion for the development of a laser weapon prototype that is to be developed under the Laser Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) capability demonstrator.

After several months of preparations, the UK Ministry of Defense on Wednesday officially awarded the contract to an industry consortium named UK Dragonfire.

UK Dragonfire’s goal will be to use what technologies are at hand to make a high energy defensive laser weapon system that will include the engagement of representative targets in land and maritime environments in 2019.

Dragonfire will be led by the missile producer MBDA, and will include QinetiQ, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall ADG among others.

“The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation and it is truly ground-breaking projects like the Laser Directed Energy Weapon which will keep this country ahead of the curve,” Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin said. “The Defence Innovation Initiative and £800M Defence Innovation Fund aim to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, in pursuit of maintaining a military advantage in the future.”

“This is a significant demonstration programme aimed at maturing our understanding of what is still an immature technology,” Peter Cooper from UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory added. “It draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces.”

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