An MBDA-led consortium has commenced a series of trials of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) laser directed energy weapons (LDEW).

The Dragonfire consortium is a joint collaboration between MoD, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and industry partners, including MBDA, Leonardo and QinetiQ.

The trials aim to validate the accuracy and power of the new laser weapon.

In 2017, the UK Dstl awarded a contract to Dragonfire consortium to evaluate the potential of LDEWs.

Recently, the consortium performed first low-power trial to validate whether the LDEW system can successfully track sea and air targets with high precision.

This trial tested components of Dragonfire tracking system using a low-power QinetiQ laser, Leonardo’s beam director and MBDA’s image processing and control technology.

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By GlobalData

The test facilitated ultra-precise, fine-pointing and tracking accuracy, which will be required to generate the damage effect when a high-powered laser will be used.

Other sub systems that were tested during the trial include command-and-control, effector management system and coarse tracking – turning the laser towards target.

Following the success of this trial, the consortium carried out the next phase of trial, involving a static high-power laser, while maintaining aimpoint precision.

The next steps will focus on combining the outcomes of the first two trials by engaging targets in an operationally simulated environment. It will see pairing of tracking accuracy and high-power laser capability.

MBDA UK managing director Chris Allam said: “It is the culmination of a lot of hard work from industry and Dstl teams, overcoming disruption due to Covid and technical challenges from use of unique innovations in Dragonfire that are testing very limits of what is physically possible in laser weapons domain.”