UK Dragonfire project funded for combat lasers

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.

Artist rendering of Dragonfire laser on a ship

Currently the UK uses Goalkeeper guns which are similar to the US Aegis system

Dragonfire is one the systems being developed under the MoD’s £800m Innovation Fund, which aims to tap British ingenuity to give the UK military an advantage in battle and new capabilities by using advanced technology.

Dave Armstrong, MBDA technical director, said: “Dragonfire will put the UK at the forefront of high energy laser systems, capitalising on the joint experience of the MoD and industry in the complex weapons environment.

Britain launched an innovation initiative aimed at fast-tracking futuristic defense technology to the front line, the Ministry of Defence announced on Aug 12.

Individuals and companies will be invited to pitch possible future technology solutions to an investment panel in a bid to secure cash from a £800 million ($1.04 billion) innovation fund available over the next 10 years, said the MoD in a statement.

Sensors that can survey underground tunnels in minutes, developed by Birmingham University, and Animal Dynamics’ work on tiny drones inspired by dragonflies are among the projects that could benefit from the new innovation initiative, said the MoD.

The United States spends about $3-3.5 billion per year on DARPA and $2-2.5 billion per year on the Air Force Research Lab and about $1.1 billion per year on the Naval Research lab.