The UK Ministry of Defence is building a new laser prototype that could serve as a weapon. The government agency has awarded a £30 million ($36.9 million) military contract to UK Dragonfire to build a prototype of a laser weapon that makes use of "directed energy" technology.
The winning contractor, UK Dragonfire, is composed of companies such as MBDA, Qinetiq, Leonardo-Finmeccanica GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall ADG.
What Is Directed Energy Technology?
The goal of the project, according to the Ministry of Defence, is to determine if "directed energy" technology would benefit the armed forces. It is expected that the laser prototype will be rolled out across the armed forces by 2019.
In military weaponry, directed energy technology comes in the form of lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beams, which can be used in ground, air, sea, and space warfare. Weapons created using this technology can be used to destroy drones, aircraft, missiles, mortars, and roadside bombs. Roadside bombs have caused a huge loss of lives for countries going through civil wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
This laser-powered system can find and track targets in various range and various weather conditions over land and water, and is precise enough to create a safe and effective engagement.
Peter Cooper, a representative from UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) said that the project will allow the government to understand the potential of the technology and could "provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces."
Laser Weapon Is Not For Threat
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence said that the decision to invest in advanced weaponry is not to counter an imminent threat but rather to assess whether the technology would prove useful to the armed forces.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also said that the $36.9 million contract is part of an initiative to transform the department: "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."
Sec. Fallon further adds that "with a rising Defence budget, and a £178 billion equipment plan, our commitment to collaboration will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain."
The Dragonfire system could put the UK at the forefront of laser weapon development and is expected to be ready for trials by 2019.