UK Completes Maiden Trial of DragonFire Laser Energy Weapon

The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has completed its first long-range laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) test at Porton Down.

The test validated the performance and viability of high-energy laser and related technologies, such as its beam director, to intercept ranged targets.

At the demonstration, a DragonFire demonstrator was trialed against various targets at different distances. Experts from multiple fields and industry partners who contributed to the maturation of the laser capability attended the demonstration.

World-Leading Capability

According to the UK Ministry of Defence, LDEW capabilities offer lower cost lethality, enhanced effectiveness, and reduced logistical requirements compared to other weapon systems.

“This trial is the culmination of design, development and demonstration activity over a number of years,” DSTL Technical Partner Ben Maddison said.

“This trial has assessed the performance of the laser itself – the outcome shows that the UK has world-leading capability in the technologies associated with laser directed energy weapons systems.”

The LDEW platform was developed with a fund of 100 million pounds ($114 million). The ongoing program is expected to provide a basis for the UK’s future weapon systems.

The DragonFire program runs in parallel with other defense projects, such as the Novel Weapons Program.

Industry Partners in DragonFire Program

MBDA provided LDEW with advanced command and control and image processing systems, while Leonardo constructed the laser’s beam director to track and lock targets with accuracy.

“The DragonFire project draws on our decades of high energy laser and beam director heritage to put the UK at the very forward edge of what is possible in laser technology,” Leonardo Electronics Managing Director Mark Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, QinetiQ laser specialists built LDEW’s phase-combined laser, which generates more than 50 kilowatts of power.

“QinetiQ’s coherent beam-combining technology offers a laser system that can achieve an enhanced power density and increased engagement range that is scalable for future uses,” explained Steve Wadey, CEO of QinetiQ.

“MBDA, Leonardo, QinetiQ and DSTL all working together are putting the UK at the forefront of research and technology in the laser domain,” added Chris Allam, UK Managing Director and Engineering Executive Director at MBDA.

“The results from these trials have verified analysis and given the team confidence that DragonFire will offer a near term and unique capability.”


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