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DSEI 2021: UK MoD Awards for Directed Energy Weapons

£72.5 Million Over Four Years for Laser and RF Demonstrators

The British MoD has awarded three contracts with an estimated total value of £72.5 million (€85 million) to produce advanced demonstrators for new directed energy weapons (DEW) for the Army and the Royal Navy, as part of the Novel Weapons Programme (NWP).

Awarded to consortia headed by Thales and Raytheon UK, the four-year contracts aim at revolutionising battlefield behaviour and reducing collateral damage. The systems are powered by electricity and operate without ammunition, significantly reducing operating costs, increasing platform endurance and providing unprecedented offensive and defensive flexibility to the frontline.

The first laser will undergo user testing onboard a Type 23 frigate by detecting, tracking, engaging and countering UAS, while an Army WOLFHOUND vehicle will host a laser demonstrator that will investigate capability against UAS and other air threats. An RF demonstrator will also be used by the Army, hosted on a MAN SV truck to detect and track a variety of air, land and sea targets.

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,” stated Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin.

Marking a significant step towards the use of high-powered laser and RF weapons across Defence, these innovative capabilities will undergo user experimentation from 2023-2025. This will focus on operation and maintenance of the new systems and will provide invaluable knowledge, information and experience to assess whether DEW can be fully embedded on other assets in the future.

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. We must exploit at pace the cutting-edge technologies developed by the talented scientists and engineers across the UK to capitalise on its benefit,” suggested Shimon Fhima, the MoD’s Director of Strategic Programmes.

The newly-formed Team Hersa brings together the best acquisition skills from Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and the best in technical expertise from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). Team Hersa will manage delivery of the demonstrators and is responsible for preparing Defence for the introduction of innovative weapons systems, ensuring the armed forces can successfully integrate the weapons on current aircraft, ships and vehicles. The new contracts exploit decades of MoD experience developing advanced laser and RF weapons technology, and globally recognised strengths in performance testing and evaluation of these systems.


The legacy of research, development, test and evaluation work already conducted in naval laser weapon systems includes DRAGONFIRE, seen here at the time of its public unveiling in 2017. (Photo: UK government)

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