Dragonfire, the UK’s Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) program, has started trials aimed at proving the accuracy and power of the system, the program consortium’s leader, MBDA UK, said at the Farnborough International Airshow. The first of the trials, conducted at low power, proved the system can successfully track air and sea targets with “exceptionally high accuracy,” the company reported.
The trials represent “a key step in the development of sovereign laser-directed energy weapons,” said Chris Allen, MBDA UK managing director. The challenge, according to the company, is safely controlling and focusing high laser power onto an extremely precise point, and at long range.
MBDA’s partners in the Dragonfire consortium—a joint industry and UK MOD collaboration—consist of Leonardo (which makes the beam director), QinetiQ (low power laser), and Dstl. MBDA provides the image processing and control technology.
The next phase of the trials will carry out a static high-power laser trial while maintaining aimpoint accuracy, a test the company called “a first for UK industry.” The third phase would combine the outcomes of the first two trials, pairing the tracking accuracy and high-power laser, then engaging targets in operationally representative scenarios.