Sunday, February 25, 2024

DragonFire laser weapon achieves UK’s first high-power firing

The DragonFire laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) system has achieved the UK’s first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets during a trial at the MOD’s Hebrides Range.

The DragonFire is a line-of-sight weapon and can engage with any visible target, and its range is classified. The system is able to deliver a high-power laser over long ranges and requires precision equivalent to hitting a £1 coin from a kilometer away.

Laser-directed energy weapons are incredibly powerful and can engage targets at lightning-fast speeds. They use a concentrated beam of light to cut through their target, resulting in structural failure or other devastating outcomes if the warhead is targeted.

What’s interesting is that firing the laser for just 10 seconds costs about the same as running a regular heater for an hour, making it a cost-effective alternative to certain missile tasks in the long run. In fact, operating the laser usually costs less than £10 per shot.

The British government hasn’t disclosed much information about the Dragonfire weapon, though some details have emerged. It’s a solid-state laser weapon in the 50-kW range based on doped glass fiber bundles running into a British-designed beam-combining system. It is mounted in a turret, and there is also an electro-optical camera and a secondary laser for target acquisition and beam focusing.

The weapon’s range is still classified, but the government claims that it has shown its ability to track and counter aerial threats. It’s also said to have high precision and can hit a £1 coin at a distance of one kilometer. The cost per shot is estimated to be around £10. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is currently developing the weapon for the Ministry of Defence and may be considered for service in the British Army and Royal Navy.

“This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionize the battlespace by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition while also lowering the risk of collateral damage,” Defence Secretary Grant Shapp said. “Investments with industry partners in advanced technologies like DragonFire are crucial in a highly contested world, helping us maintain the battle-winning edge and keep the nation safe.”