Britain’s armed forces are to begin trials using laser weapons that could revolutionise the battlefields of the future, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
A Royal Navy Type 23 frigate will be fitted with the first laser device as part of the MoD’s “novel weapons programme”.
The new system – operating without ammunition – will be used to “detect, track, engage and counter” unmanned aerial drones.
A £72.5m investment in the advancement of Directed Energy Weapons, producing laser and radio frequency weapons, will be tested by the @RoyalNavy and @BritishArmy.
Three contracts awarded to industry will sustain 249 jobs and create 49 more.
Read more https://t.co/a6RTW6Aqp8 pic.twitter.com/w3VVdcMdgd
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 14, 2021
A second laser demonstrator will be installed in an Army Wolfhound armoured vehicle to assess its capability against drone and other aerial threats.
The MoD said “directed energy weapons” had the potential to provide troops with “unprecedented offensive and defensive flexibility” while cutting operating costs and reducing the risks of collateral damage.
A series of contracts worth around £72.5 million have been awarded to consortia headed by Thales and Raytheon to develop the new systems.
Trials will take place between 2023 and 2025 to assess whether they can be fully embedded into other defence assets.
We intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology
The MoD said the programme would create at least 49 new jobs while securing a further 249.
Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin said: “Directed energy weapons are a key element of our future equipment programmes and we intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology.”
The MoD’s director of strategic programmes, Shimon Fhima, said it was important for the UK to move quickly to exploit the new technology.
“These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the future battlefield for our armed forces, enabling the prosecution of new targets in the land, sea and air domains and allowing commanders to meet mission objectives in new ways,” he said.
“We must exploit at pace the cutting-edge technologies developed by the talented scientists and engineers across the UK to capitalise on its benefit.”