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UK Innovation: Laser Weapon Contract Awarded

Dragonfire LDEW Graphic © MBDA Systems

The UK Ministry of Defence has today announced the award of a £30 million contract to produce a Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) Capability Demonstrator to the UK Dragonfire consortium, led by MBDA.

According to a communiqué released to C&S on 4th January, but embargoed until 00.01 today: “The project will assess innovative LDEW technologies and approaches, culminating in a demonstration of the system in 2019. The contract will assess how the system can pick up and track targets at various ranges and in varied weather conditions over land and water, to allow precision use.

“The project will inform decisions on the future of the programme and help the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) establish a road map to an in-service capability. If it is successful, the first laser weapons would come into service in the mid-2020s.

“Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin said: ‘The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation and it is truly ground-breaking projects like the Laser Directed Energy Weapon which will keep this country ahead of the curve. The Defence Innovation Initiative and £800M Defence Innovation Fund aim to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, in pursuit of maintaining a military advantage in the future. With a rising Defence budget, and a £178 billion equipment plan, our commitment to innovation will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain’.

“The MOD’s investment in such innovative solutions demonstrates how the Government’s £178 billion equipment plan, supported by a rising Defence budget, is ensuring our Armed Forces have the most effective and innovative capability available. The Innovation Initiative aims to strengthen the Defence partnerships which make such projects possible, keeping the UK safe and secure in a complex world.

” Dstl’s Peter Cooper added: ‘This is a significant demonstration programme aimed at maturing our understanding of what is still an immature technology. It draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces’.

¤ Last September MBDA announced:-

“The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is finalising the agreement of a £30M contract with UK DRAGONFIRE, an UK industrial team led by MBDA, to conduct the Laser Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Capability Demonstrator. UK DRAGONFIRE will achieve, through the Laser Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Capability Demonstrator, a significant step change in the UK’s capability in High Energy Laser Weapon Systems and will provide the basis for technology-driven operational advantage. The programme will mature the key technologies for a high energy defensive laser weapon system and will include the engagement of representative targets in land and maritime environments in 2019. The programme will also provide the body of evidence for future procurement decisions.

“UK DRAGONFIRE is a collaborative consortium led by MBDA with QinetiQ and Leonardo-Finmeccanica that has brought together the best of relevant UK industry expertise to deliver the highly challenging and complex programme. The team also capitalises on the strengths of the individual companies involved, which includes GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall ADG. The UK DRAGONFIRE proposal builds on the significant MoD and Industry investment in the areas of laser coherent beam combining, weapon systems command and control, advanced pointing systems and high power storage.”

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