The government has today unveiled its first ever investment into laser weapons as it seeks to give the armed forces the equipment they need to handle the next generation of battlefield combat.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) will put £72.5m into three “Directed Energy Weapons”, as the technologies are known.
Consortia headed by Thales and Raytheon UK will handle the four-year contracts, which will create at least 49 new jobs and sustain 249 jobs.
The new systems, part of the UK’s novel weapons programme, are powered by electricity and operate without ammunition.
From 2023 the first of these will be deployed on one of the Royal Navy’s Type-23 frigates to track and engage both drones and other sea-based targets.
Similar systems will then be integrated with British Army vehicles like the Wolfhound armoured vehicle.
Speaking on the first day of defence trade show DSEI in London, minister for defence procurement Jeremy Quinn said: “Directed Energy Weapons are a key element of our future equipment programmes and we intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology.”
Over the next four years, an extra £6.6bn of funding has been made available for research and development as part of the MOD’s £24bn boost in defence spending.
“High-energy lasers are moving from the laboratory to the field,” said Alex Rose-Parfitt, engineering director, Raytheon UK.
“We are partnering with the MOD to accelerate this developing technology and make it available to the UK military. This demonstrator programme will show how the use of high-energy laser weapons could help protect soldiers against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).”