During a trial at the MOD Hebrides Range, the DragonFire laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system made history by achieving the first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets in the UK.
The recent trial, as reported by Dstl and the DragonFire partners – MBDA, Leonardo, and QinetiQ – is said to build on a series of successful trials.
On October 17, 2022, the DragonFire consortium, led by MBDA, achieved a milestone with the first static high-power laser firing at Dstl’s Porton Down range. Using QinetiQ’s 50kW laser, focused by Leonardo’s Beam Director, and controlled by MBDA’s system, the trials demonstrated DragonFire’s ability to focus a high-power laser onto a precise point at long range.
The recent test marked the second set of trials, following the July 2022 tests, proving DragonFire’s accuracy in tracking and engaging air and sea targets with precision.
“Together, the DragonFire partners and Dstl are demonstrating exceptional UK capability in laser directed energy weapons. The DragonFire system has been successfully proven to date and we are now closer than ever to having a unique weapon that will enable frontline commands to meet the rapidly changing threats they face,” said Chris Allam, Managing Director, MBDA UK.
Steve Wadey, Group Chief Executive Officer, QinetiQ, said: “Achieving the UK’s first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets at the QinetiQ-managed MOD Hebrides range is a significant milestone. Our world-leading science and technology capabilities have been applied to the continued development of our advanced coherent beam-combining technology, which is delivering enhanced performance and scalability.”
The development of the DragonFire weapon system is the result of a joint investment totaling £100 million (approximately $127 million) from industry and the UK MOD.
Utilizing UK-developed beam combining technology, Dragonfire features a 50 kW-class laser system mounted on a turret, equipped with an electro-optical camera and a secondary lower-power laser for imaging and tracking.
Designed to defend land and maritime targets against threats such as missiles and mortars, Dragonfire’s energy needs may be met by a Flywheel Energy Storage System (FESS) in development through a joint UK-US effort.