UK to develop laser and radio frequency directed energy weapons

10 July 2019 (Last Updated July 10th, 2019 14:51)

The UK Government has announced that it will invest £130m to develop laser and radio frequency directed energy weapons (DEW).

UK to develop laser and radio frequency directed energy weapons
Computer generated image illustrating the use of DEW on a Wildcat helicopter. Credit: Crown copyright.

The UK Government has announced that it will invest £130m to develop laser and radio frequency directed energy weapons (DEW).

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated that these weapons have the potential to ‘revolutionise the battlefield’.

Laser weapons systems will use high-energy light beams to target and destroy unmanned aerial systems and missiles.

Radio frequency weapons will have the ability to disrupt and disable adversary computers and electronics.

To kick-start the process, the MoD has issued a prior information notice for the development of three new DEW demonstrators under its Novel Weapons Programme initiative.

Through these demonstrators, the ministry intends to assess the potential of the technology and accelerate the process to field it on the battlefield.

A significant feature of these weapons systems is that they would be powered by electricity and operated without ammunition.

Destined to be developed for operational use by all three services, the proposed systems could be fuelled by the engine or generator of a vehicle, the MoD added. This will drive down operating costs.

UK Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “Laser and radio frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our armed forces.

“This significant investment demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our armed forces operate at the forefront of military technology.”

The UK aims to begin trials for the new laser and radio frequency weapons systems on British Royal Navy ships and army vehicles in 2023.

The trials will give a better understanding of DEW and ‘test the systems to their limits’. In addition, the armed forces will be able to use the exercises to assess how the systems could be integrated with current defence platforms.

The UK is already developing a laser technology-based weapons system demonstrator known as the Dragonfire, which will be tested later this year.