The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) successfully tested the UK’s first high-powered, long-range laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW), called DragonFire, on October 17 at the Porton Down Science Park test range in Wiltshire. 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 improved the UK’s understanding of how high-energy lasers and their associated technologies can operate over distance and defeat their targets. The ability to deliver high levels of laser power with sufficient accuracy is one of the major areas that need to be demonstrated in order to provide confidence in the performance and viability of LDEW systems.
When compared to other weapon systems, laser-directed energy weapons have the potential to provide lower-cost lethality, a lower logistical burden, and increased effectiveness.
“These successful trials are the latest step in accelerating the delivery of a UK sovereign laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) capability.” MBDA, Leonardo, QinetiQ, and Dstl, all working together, are putting the UK at the forefront of research and technology in the laser domain. The results from these trials have verified the analysis and given the team confidence that DragonFire will offer a near-term and unique capability. MBDA’s UK Managing Director and Executive Group Director of Engineering, Chris Allam, stated.
This technology could provide the basis for a number of future weapon systems. The DragonFire project is running in parallel with and closely connected to other defense programs, including the Novel Weapons Program.
Through the Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA), Dstl is currently seeking innovations to better understand the next steps necessary to develop and introduce the first generation of deployed directed energy weapons. The Range has defined distances over which the trial serials were conducted, up to a maximum distance of 3.4 km from DragonFire. The capability of DragonFire is classified.