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DragonFire - Laser Technology Now Used to Revolutionise UK Military

In a groundbreaking development, the UK Armed Forces have achieved a significant milestone in the advancement of military laser technology.

The DragonFire laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system, designed to enhance accuracy while reducing ammunition costs, recently marked the UK's first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets during a trial at the MOD’s Hebrides Range.

DragonFire laser directed energy weapon (LDEW)

DragonFire is a result of a £100 million joint investment by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and industry partners and promises to be a game-changer for the UK's Air Defence capabilities. Led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in collaboration with industry partners, this innovative laser system exploits UK engineering technology to deliver a high-powered laser over classified ranges with pinpoint accuracy. This weapon can hit a £1 coin from a kilometre away, impressive stuff!

The operating cost of the laser is typically less than £10 per shot. Firing the laser for 10 seconds is cost-equivalent to using a regular heater for just one hour, positioning DragonFire as a cost-effective, long-term alternative to certain missile tasks.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps emphasises the transformative potential of this cutting-edge weaponry, foreseeing a reduction in reliance on expensive ammunition and a decrease in collateral damage risk.

The recent milestone achieved during the trial demonstrates the DragonFire system's ability to engage aerial targets at relevant ranges, setting the stage for its potential adoption by both the Army and Royal Navy. This progress follows a series of successful trials, including the first static high-power laser firing and demonstrations of the system's accuracy in tracking moving air and sea targets at range.

Building on this success, the MOD has announced a multi-million-pound program to transition the technology from the research environment to the battlefield. Dstl's Chief Executive, Dr Paul Hollinshead, highlights the significant step forward in understanding the potential opportunities and threats posed by directed energy weapons through these trials, emphasising Dstl's critical role in preparing the armed forces for the future.

The DragonFire weapon system, a result of a £30 million contract awarded in 2017 by the MOD’s Chief Scientific Advisor’s Research Programme, showcases the innovative application of science and engineering. Dr Nick Joad, DST, describes DragonFire as delivering much greater performance than other systems of a similar class, providing a step-change in the ability to deal with high-performance and low-cost threats.

DragonFire represents a remarkable leap forward in laser technology, showcasing lasers' reliability and future faith across all industries including defence.