Shivali Best — Daily Mail Online Jan 5, 2017
While we’re used to seeing laser weapons in the Star Wars films, the futuristic technology could soon be a reality for the UK military.
The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a £30 million ($37 million) contract to create a laser weapon which can track targets at distances and operate in varied weather conditions.
If the prototype is successful, the UK’s first laser weapons could come into service by the mid-2020s.
The MoD has partnered with Dragonfire, a UK industrial team to create the laser weapon.
The aim of the project is to test whether directed energy technology could be used by the armed forces.
In 2019, a demonstration of the prototype will be unveiled on both land and maritime environments.
Dave Armstrong, UK Managing Director of MBDA, which owns Dragonfire, said: ‘UK Dragonfire will put the UK at the forefront of high energy laser systems, capitalising on the experience of joint MoD/Industry working in the complex weapons environment
‘Furthermore it advances the UK towards a future product with significant export potential, as well as providing opportunities for partnerships with other nations’ armed forces that have similar requirements.’
While the MoD has not specificed whether the laser could be used for any specific threats, direct energy weapons could have a range of uses.
This includes destroying drones, shooting down incoming air-to-air missiles, or hitting targets on the ground much like regular aircraft gun.
Last year, the US army revealed that it is planning to deploy the first laser weapons in 2023.
Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities ‘I believe we’re very close,’ when asked how close the Army is to developing offensive and defensive directed-energy weapons.
She said the programmes would be extensively tested as the Army wants to understand the lasers’ full capabilities ‘before we offer it to a Soldier.’
If the UK’s prototype is successful in its 2019 demonstration, the MoD could have laser weapons in use around the same time as the US military.
Norman Bone, Managing Director of Leonardo Air and Space Systems who is also working on the laser, said: ‘This demonstrator will be at the forefront of UK technology research and fits within our strategy to develop the next generation of laser systems.’