The MoD have announced that a £30 million deal for a new British laser weapon system, for use on land and at sea, is currently in the process of being finalised.
It was reported earlier in the year that the announcement of a contract award to MBDA for a naval laser weapon demonstrator had been held up by one of the losing bidders, Thales UK.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has today announced that the Ministry of Defence is finalising a £30 million deal for a new laser demonstrator.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation. Our new Innovation Initiative will transform Defence culture to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve.
With a rising Defence budget, and a £178 billion equipment plan, our commitment to collaboration will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain”
According to the Ministry of Defence:
“A novel laser weapon could complement or replace existing weapons systems with the potential for significant benefits. It could be employed to protect our maritime and land forces; for example, ships from threat missiles or soldiers from enemy mortars.”
The Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) Capability Demonstrator is set to be built by MBDA UK Ltd and a prototype delivered by 2019,
MBDA UK Ltd will assess how the system can acquire and track targets at range and in varying weather conditions over land and water, with sufficient precision to enable safe and effective engagement.
In July we reported that MBDA had been selected to demonstrate British laser weapons for use on Royal Navy warships.
It had been speculated that the MoD was due to select a contractor to build a technology demonstrator to validate a laser weapon system. It is understood that the laser Could be ‘co-mounted’ with the Phalanx’s cannon, rather than replacing it altogether.
Raytheon, a rival bidder, had showed a possible configuration with a laser and the 20mm Phalanx fitted alongside a radar and optronics. This image is shown above.
The Royal Navy already widely uses the Phalanx across its fleet.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, made an announcement foreshadowing this last year. He claimed that Britain will test a prototype laser cannon on its warships by the end of the decade.
The “directed energy weapon” will be able to fire high energy beams to damage and burn up targets at the cost of only pence per shot.
This news will see Britain join the laser weapons arms race after America has already deployed a laser to the Gulf on one of its own warships.
America deployed a working laser weapon system on board USS Ponce in the Gulf last year. The laser has been successfully tested shooting down drone aircraft and burning up small attacking boats, or at lower power to “dazzle” sensors and instruments.
The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System reportedly worked perfectly, indeed the commander of the Ponce is authorised to use the system as a defensive weapon.
Laser weapons are an increasing focus for defence firms and expected to become more common on the battlefield in the next decade.