DragonFire laser: MoD tests weapon as low-cost alternative to missiles

A night shot showing the DragonFire laser firing at an aerial target
Image caption,The Army and Royal Navy are considering using the laser technology

By Doug Faulkner

BBC News

The UK has successfully fired a high-power laser weapon against an aerial target for the first time in a trial.

It is hoped that the test will pave the way for a low-cost alternative to missiles to shoot down targets like drones.

The DragonFire weapon is precise enough to hit a £1 coin from a kilometre away, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) says.

It described the test, at its Hebrides Range in Scotland, as a “major step” in bringing the technology into service.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the technology could reduce “the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage”.

The MoD says both the Army and Royal Navy are considering using the technology as part of their future air defence capabilities.

While laser weaponry might sound like something from science fiction the US Navy has already installed systems on several destroyers.

However, missiles rather than lasers have been used to shoot down drones during the current conflict with Houthis in the Red Sea.

Missiles can be far more expensive than the drones they destroy, with some costing millions of pounds compared to a few thousand.

The MoD says firing the DragonFire system for 10 seconds is the cost equivalent of using a regular heater for an hour, with the cost of operating it typically less than £10 per shot.

The DragonFire laser weapon system
Image caption,What the DragonFire laser weapon system looks like

Laser-directed energy weapons (LDEWs) use an intense light beam to cut through their target and can strike at the speed of light.

The range of the DragonFire system is classified but it is a line-of-sight weapon, meaning it can attack any visible target within range.

It is being developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), alongside some industry partners, on behalf of the MoD.

Dstl’s chief executive Dr Paul Hollinshead said: “These trials have seen us take a huge step forward in realising the potential opportunities and understanding the threats posed by directed energy weapons.”

The DragonFire weapon system is the result of a £100m joint investment by the MoD and industry.

The development of laser weapons comes amid the increasing use of drones in warfare, which has been seen during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, with Russia believed to be using Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones to attack Ukrainian cities.

Ukraine, which also uses some “kamikaze” drones, has created its own “army of drones” which has seen the use of hobby drones for military purposes.https://tehopeng.com/

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