Britain has achieved a significant milestone in military technology by successfully firing its Dragonfire high-powered laser weapon at aerial targets for the first time. The Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) underwent testing at the Ministry of Defence’s Hebrides Range, showcasing its power and accuracy.
In recent times, global events have highlighted the need for advanced weaponry to counter emerging threats on the modern battlefield. While conventional missiles have proven effective in neutralizing aerial threats, the drawback lies in their high cost and finite stockpile. This issue becomes particularly evident when dealing with drones and rockets that come at a significantly lower cost than the multimillion-dollar missiles used to intercept them. Enter Dragonfire, a cutting-edge laser weapon designed to address these challenges.
The British government has been tight-lipped about specific details of Dragonfire, but some information has surfaced. The weapon is a solid-state laser in the 50-kW range, employing doped glass fiber bundles and a classified beam-combining system. Mounted in a turret, Dragonfire features an electro-optical camera and a secondary laser for target acquisition and beam focusing. Its range remains classified, but it has demonstrated the ability to track and counter aerial threats with precision.
One notable advantage of laser weapons like Dragonfire is their speed, traveling at the speed of light over long distances. Additionally, these weapons can engage multiple targets simultaneously, strike with extreme precision, and do so at a remarkably low cost per round. The precision of Dragonfire is exemplified by its ability to hit a £1 coin at a kilometer, with each shot costing about £10.
Developed at a cost of £100 million by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) for the Ministry of Defence, Dragonfire is being considered for deployment with the British Army and the Royal Navy. Defence Secretary Grant Shapp emphasizes the potential revolution in the battle-space, reducing reliance on expensive ammunition and minimizing the risk of collateral damage. Investments in advanced technologies like Dragonfire are viewed as crucial for maintaining a battle-winning edge and ensuring national security in a highly contested world.