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The DragonFire is the UK MOD's first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets. Photo courtesy UK Ministry of Defence

The DragonFire is the UK MOD's first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets. Photo courtesy UK Ministry of Defence

UK Military to Deploy Laser Weapons on Warships in 2027

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1782
April 12, 2024

The UK Ministry of Defence announced on Friday that the DragonFire laser weapons system will be operational on Royal Navy warships from 2027, five years earlier than previously planned. This fast-tracking has been made possible due to the recent reformation of defence procurement rules.

The DragonFire laser is capable of firing at any visible aerial target for a cost of around £10 per shot. Its accuracy is equivalent to hitting a coin from a kilometer away, making the weapon highly effective against threats like drones and missiles.

Laser-directed energy weapons can engage targets at the speed of light, using an intense beam to cut through targets, causing structural failure or more significant damage if the warhead is targeted. The Defence Ministry said the DragonFire laser could potentially be a long-term, low-cost alternative to certain tasks currently performed by missiles, such as shooting down attack drones.

Photo: UK Ministry of Defence

The announcement is particularly timely, as the UK Royal Navy has been actively involved in countering Houthi drone and missile attacks on commercial ships from Yemen. Previously, the introduction of laser weapons to the UK armed forces was expected to occur in 2032. However, the new procurement model and prioritisation within Defence have expedited this timeline.

The reformed procurement model focuses on delivering a swift, minimum deployable capability to personnel before finalizing development once in service. The government said this approach ensures that personnel can access the necessary tools quickly to address evolving threats.

“Our widespread reforms will deliver the latest kit and weaponry for our Armed Forces faster and help identify export opportunities that can boost the UK economy,” said UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps. “DragonFire shows the best of the UK at the forefront of military technology, and we will not delay in getting it in the hands of our military to face down the threats we’re facing.”

The new procurement model also includes new checks and balances, increased empowerment of defence scientists and industry partners, and an early focus on exportability.

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