Ministry of Defence awards £30m contract to UK Dragonfire consortium to build a prototype "laser weapon"

Francesca Washtell
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"Fire the lay-zer" - The UK's military is exploring a technology favoured by Dr Evil (Source: Getty)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a £30m contract to a consortium of European companies to build a prototype "laser weapon".

The contract for the laser directed energy weapon will assess how the system can pick up and track targets "at various ranges and in varied weather conditions over land and water".

If the programme is successful, the first laser weapons will come into service in the mid-2020s.

Read more: BAE systems wins £300m MoD contract to support Hawk aircraft

The group of companies awarded the contract, called the UK Dragonfire consortium, is led by MBDA and includes FTSE 250-listed QinetiQ, BAE Systems and Italian defence firm Leonardo.

Peter Cooper, of the MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said the programme will mature the military's knowledge of an "immature technology".

"It draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats faced by UK armed forces," Cooper added.

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"The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation and it is truly ground-breaking projects like the laser directed energy weapon which will keep this country ahead of the curve," said minister for defence procurement Harriet Baldwin.

"The Defence Innovation Initiative and £800m Defence Innovation Fund aim to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, in pursuit of maintaining a military advantage in the future."

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