The Royal Navy are to test energy directed weapons before the decade is over First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas has announced at DSEi as part of his key note speech.

The Admiral said the Navy was working with industry on a “directed energy weapon” with the goal of demonstrating it at sea before 2020.

It is also understood from the speech that the Royal Navy have exchange officers working on a railgun system with the US Navy. The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division demonstrated an 8 MJ railgun firing 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) projectiles in October 2006 as a prototype of a 64 MJ weapon to be deployed aboard US Navy warships.

Admiral Zambellas said:

“Energy weapons don’t require conventional ammunition. With a cost-per-shot potentially measured in pence rather than pounds, they offer a route to address the spiralling cost of missile development and production – as well as reducing supply chain demands.

Technology is our ticket to being the best – operationally and strategically. It will give us the advantage, hold the Royal Navy’s place in the premier league of navies in a dangerous and uncertain world.”

The US navy have already demonstrated the use of a laser to damage unmanned aircraft and small vessels. The USS Ponce features LaWS, Laser Weapon System, a directed energy weapon that was installed on USS Ponce for field testing in 2014. The United States Navy reported the LaWS system works as expected and that the commander of the Ponce is authorised to use the system as a defensive weapon. The Royal Navy hopes to build on that experience.

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