DragonFire Laser Weapon Will Equip Royal Navy Warships From 2027

DragonFire Laser


DragonFire Laser
A photograph from final yr’s take a look at of DragonFire. (Picture: Royal Navy)

The weapon will present extremely efficient defence in opposition to drone and missile threats with simply £10 a shot.

The UK Ministry of Defence introduced that the brand new, cutting-edge DragonFire laser will be installed on Royal Navy warships for the primary time from 2027. The roll out of laser weapons to the UK armed forces was initially anticipated in 2032, nonetheless a brand new defence procurement mannequin which got here into drive this week allowed to make this occur way more shortly.

Capable of hearth at any goal seen within the air at round £10 a shot and with an accuracy equal to hitting a pound coin from a kilometre away, the highly effective DragonFire weapon will present extremely efficient defence in opposition to drone and missile threats, mentioned the MoD. This matter is especially related right this moment, as demonstrated by recent events in Ukraine and in the Red Sea, the place missiles price 1000’s of {dollars} have for use to destroy small drones or cruise missiles which price a lot lower than the weapons wanted to counter them.

Using lasers would remedy one other large drawback: the ammunition resupply. Actually, a laser directed power weapon can take pleasure in a limiteless journal of ammo, nonetheless it must have a dependable supply of power. This won’t be an issue on a warship, however it may actually be for a land-based cellular system.

“Noting the amount and different sophistication of air and missile threats seen within the Southern Red Sea, we see a really related and present instance of the place laser weapons may present a further layer of defence to guard delivery, at a doubtlessly a lot decrease price per shot and with out the inherent onboard journal and silo capability constraints related to interceptor missiles,” mentioned Captain Matt Ryder, accountable for new capabilities as Head of Above Water Battlespace within the Royal Navy’s Develop Directorate.

For an occasion,the HMS Diamond Type 45 destroyer, one of many British ships concerned in operations within the Crimson Sea, is supplied with 48 vertical launcher system cells for Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles, known as Sea Viper within the UK. Every of those missiles prices between £1m and £2m and, as soon as the missile inventory is depleted, the ship must return to port or meet-up with a resupply ship. The price of the targets being shot down is, as an alternative, within the order of the tens of 1000’s kilos.

“Firing it for 10 seconds is the fee equal of utilizing an everyday heater for simply an hour. Due to this fact, it has the potential to be a long-term low-cost various to sure duties missiles presently perform,” mentioned the MoD after the checks marketing campaign. “The price of working the laser is often lower than £10 per shot”.

The DragonFire demonstrator

This new UK sovereign functionality is designed to offer short-range air defence and close-in protection for naval vessels utilizing a spread of various results relying on the tactical situation. These embrace figuring out, monitoring and deterring a possible risk by dazzling its focusing on sensors, in addition to damaging and even destroying the incoming risk.

DragonFire Laser
A rendering of the DragonFire laser put in on a Royal Navy ship. Within the field: the DragonFire prototype. (Pictures: Royal Navy)

DragonFire is led by the Defence Science and Know-how Laboratory (Dstl), on behalf of the UK MoD, working with its trade companions MBDA (which leads the trade effort), Leonardo and QinetiQ. MBDA developed the command and management and picture processing techniques, Leonardo provided the system’s beam director and QinetiQ supplied the laser supply and developed coherent beam-combining expertise .

Earlier this yr, the UK MoD introduced that the DragonFire laser directed power weapon (LDEW) system achieved the UK’s first high-power firing of a laser weapon in opposition to aerial targets on the Hebrides Vary. Whereas the vary of the weapon is assessed, the MoD acknowledged that the take a look at demonstrated the flexibility to have interaction aerial targets at related ranges.

“Any such cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionise the battlespace by lowering the reliance on costly ammunition, whereas additionally decreasing the danger of collateral injury,” mentioned Defence Secretary, Grant Shapp after the profitable trial marketing campaign.

The trials, which had been carried out on the finish of 2023, noticed the LDEW system examined at numerous powers in opposition to representative air and maritime targets at various ranges, altitudes and speeds. The DragonFire demonstrator is within the 50 kW-class, nonetheless the necessities for the ultimate system haven’t been finalized but. The Royal Navy beforehand sought the likelihood to combine a 150 kW-class laser on its ships.

With the choice to discipline the system from 2027, the DragonFire laser weapon system will quickly develop from an indication programme to an operational functionality for the Royal Navy. The following levels of this growth, mentioned MBDA in its press launch, will embrace additional stay firings and the manufacture and set up of weapon techniques onto Royal Navy platforms.

In the meantime, officers from MBDA, Leonardo and QinetiQ confirmed to Naval News final month that they had been engaged on ‘second-generation’ designs leveraging expertise and strategies confirmed within the DragonFire prototype.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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