It has been reported that the announcement of a contract award to MBDA for a naval laser weapon demonstrator has been held up by one of the losing bidders.
DefenseNews say here:
“Thales UK filed the protest after missile-maker MBDA was selected in mid-July.”
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 would 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.
According to multiple reports, the Royal Navy would add to its stock of Phalanx by purchasing additional weapons at some point. Close-in weapon systems remain a shipboard necessity for detecting and engaging missiles and aircraft at short range.
This news will see Britain join the laser arms race after America has already deployed a laser to the Gulf on one of its own warships.
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.
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.
In May, Raytheon claimed the first test firings could take place in 2018.