UK’s Dragonfire ship laser gun on trials

The UK’s Laser Directed Energy Programme (LDEW) Dragonfire, led by missile defence company MBDA, has successfully conducted a series of trials to prove the accuracy and power of the novel laser weapon.

Launched in 2017, Britain’s Dragonfire laser program reached a milestone by completing a set of trials. The trials were undertaken by the Dragonfire consortium, joint industry and UK MOD collaboration between MBDA, Leonardo, QinetiQ and Dstl.

The UK government set aside £30 million for the development of this laser weapon prototype.

MBDA
Photo: MBDA

As explained, the tests proved the system can “successfully track air and sea targets with exceptionally high accuracy”.

This, on the other hand, paved the way for the next phase of the trials that will deliver a first for the UK industry when carrying out a static high-power laser trial, while maintaining aimpoint accuracy.

The next step will look to combine the outcomes of these two trials, pairing the recently tracking accuracy and the high-power laser, by engaging targets in operationally representative scenarios.

“The success of these trials is a key step in the development of sovereign laser directed energy weapons. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work from both the industry and Dstl teams, overcoming disruption due to COVID and technical challenges from the use of unique innovations in Dragonfire that are testing the very limits of what is physically possible in the laser weapons domain,” Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, said.

As emphasized by MBDA, the main challenge of an LDEW system is safely controlling and focusing high laser power onto an extremely precise point, at a long range.

This trial used a low-power QinetiQ laser, Leonardo’s beam director and MBDAs image processing and control technology to facilitate the ultra-precise “fine” pointing and tracking accuracy, which will be required to generate the damaging effect when a high-powered laser will be used.

Other subsystems include the C2, Effector Management System (EMS) and “coarse” tracking.

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

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