Britain's Dragonfire laser weapon engages first aerial targets
Britain has fired its Dragonfire high-powered laser weapon at aerial targets for the first time. The test of the Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) on the Ministry of Defence's Hebrides Range was designed to demonstrate its power and accuracy.
Recent real world events have shown that there is a definite use for laser weapons on the modern battlefield. While modern missiles can take out aerial threats with great effectiveness, as shown in Ukraine, Israel, and the Red Sea, there is a problem with using a finite stockpile of missiles costing millions of dollars each to knock out drones and rockets costing only thousands.
Lasers have a number of advantages. Each 'shot' travels at the speed of light over very long ranges and a laser weapon can engage multiple targets simultaneously. They can also strike with extreme precision and at a remarkably low cost per round.
The British government isn't saying much about Dragonfire, though some things are known. It's a solid-state laser weapon in the 50-kW range based on doped glass fiber bundles running into a British-designed beam-combining system that's still very much on the classified list. Mounted in a turret, there's also an electro-optical camera and a secondary laser for target acquisition and beam focusing.
Dragonfire's range is classified as well, though the government does say that it has demonstrated its ability to track and counter aerial threats. The weapon has the precision to hit a £1 coin (23 mm/0.9 in diameter) at a kilometer (0.6 miles) and that the cost per shot is about £10 (US$13). Under development at a cost of £100 million (US$127 million) by a team led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) for the Ministry of Defence, it is being considered for service with the British Army and the Royal Navy.
"This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionize the battle-space by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage," said Defence Secretary, Grant Shapp. "Investments with industry partners in advanced technologies like DragonFire are crucial in a highly contested world, helping us maintain the battle-winning edge and keep the nation safe."
Source: UK Government