The United Kingdom has successfully used an “advanced future military laser” to shoot down an aerial target for the first time.
The British Ministry of Defence hailed a “milestone” on Friday after a successful test of its “DragonFire” high-powered laser weapon that it hopes will increase the military’s accuracy in targeting aerial targets such as drones while reducing the need for ammunition.
The laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) is claimed to have the ability to hit a precision target the size of a coin from a kilometre away. Although the exact range of the weapon is classified, the ministry said that it can engage with any visible target.
The MoD said that the average cost of firing the laser is around £10 per shot, meaning that the weapon has the “potential to be a long-term low-cost alternative to certain tasks missiles currently carry out.”
Both the British Army and the Royal Navy are currently considering adopting the weapons system as a part of their future air defence apparatus, the ministry said.
Commenting on the achievement, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionise the battlespace by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage.
“Investments with industry partners in advanced technologies like DragonFire are crucial in a highly contested world, helping us maintain the battle-winning edge and keep the nation safe.”
The DragonFire system was developed under a £100 million joint investment from the Ministry of Defence and private industry at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
Dstl’s chief executive Dr Paul Hollinshead said: “These trials have seen us take a huge step forward in realising the potential opportunities and understanding the threats posed by directed energy weapons.”