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Laser downs drones in successful trial of possible future naval weapon

19 January 2024
A laser weapon which could be fitted to future generations of Royal Navy warships has successfully destroyed aerial drones for the first time.

A burst of a high-intensity beam from Dragonfire costs no more than £10 – yet can bring down incoming drones, missiles and aircraft.

After nearly a decade in development and an investment of around £100m, it’s been successfully tested by government scientists on the Ministry of Defence’s ranges in the Hebrides

Developed by UK industries working with the Government’s defence laboratories, Dstl, DragonFire is a ‘laser-directed energy weapon’. It can engage any visible target (the range is classified) in theory, even one travelling at light speed.

To be effective, it must concentrate its high-power beam typically for around ten seconds – on the same spot (the tracking system requires precision equivalent to hitting a pound coin from a kilometre away apparently) causing the target to break up or, if the laser focuses on, say, a missile warhead, to cause it to detonate.

It cannot be fitted to existing Royal Navy ships… but it could be installed on those currently under construction such as Type 26 or 31 frigates, while the Army is looking at fitting it to some of its armour to take out enemy aerial threats.

Developers say even a concentrated burst of ten seconds of high energy costs no more than using an electric heater intensively for an hour… or about £10 per ‘shot’.


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