The UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is reportedly planning to launch a competition this year for the development of directed energy weapons (DEW).

An MoD spokeswoman was quoted by DefenseNews as saying: "This four-year project aims to understand what potential there is for high energy laser technology to be used in future military capabilities.

"The project aims to assess a number of sub-systems that will potentially be incorporated into a working developmental system for testing.

"This four-year project aims to understand what potential there is for high energy laser technology to be used in future military capabilities."

"We intend to conduct outdoor testing at a range, but exact details are yet to be determined."

The £30m project is being pursued by MBDA, Lockheed Martin UK, Qinetiq, Thales UK and Raytheon UK among others, and a winning contractor is expected to be selected before April 2015.

In 2013, unnamed Thales UK executives told the publication that the company is planning to complete the development of a production-ready laser-powered soft-kill system capable of defeating electro-optically guided sensors on missiles in the next three years.

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Thales has been developing the system for several years, but started searching for an international partner after a lack of funding support from the MoD.

MBDA’s German subsidiary also possesses extensive laser DEW experience, having tested a counter rocket, artillery and mortar system, using 40kW of laser-power in 2012.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies senior air analyst Doug Barrie said Laser DEW systems can dazzle or destroy electro-optical sensors on aircraft and missile sensors, as well as damage the platforms themselves in some cases.

"One application could be to counter unmanned air vehicles where the lasers could blind sensors or damage the UAV.

"Another might be a counter rocket, artillery and mortar system."

The Dstl also awarded a contract to MBDA to run a radio frequency directed energy weapon (RF-DEWs) project in October 2013.

The MoD spokeswoman said: "Its purpose is to help improve the MoD’s understanding of how RF-DEWs can disrupt or damage electronic equipment and how, in turn, this can be prevented."

Defence Technology