The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced it will seek to develop futuristic weapons systems known as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW).
In a Prior Information Notice (PIN) published this week, the MoD said it intends to develop three new DEW demonstrators to explore the potential of the technologies and accelerate the roll-out of the futuristic weapons systems onto the battlefield.
The demonstrators form part of the MOD’s Novel Weapons Programme, which is responsible for the trial and implementation of innovative weapons systems.
Powered solely by electricity, the weapons can operate without ammunition and could provide “unprecedented flexibility” for frontline troops. Laser weapons systems developed and used by British troops would see high-energy light beams used to target and destroy enemy drones or missiles.
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Radio Frequency weapons, alternatively, could be used to disrupt and disable enemy computers and electronics. The new systems are expected to be trialled in 2023 on Royal Navy vessels and British Army vehicles. However, once developed, both technologies could be used by all three branches of the military.
Exercises conducted by personnel will aim to develop a better understanding of directed energy weapons and to assess how they might be integrated with existing weapons platforms.
Up to £130 million will be invested in the development of the weapons systems, including the construction of the demonstrators, the creation of a new Joint Programme Office and the recruitment of personnel to manage the programme.
Commenting on the announcement, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces.
“This significant investment demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our Armed Forces operate at the forefront of military technology.”
Initial trials for laser weapons systems are already planned, with the Dragonfire demonstrator commissioned by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory expected to be tested later this year.
This weapons system represents a “world-first in laser weapons technology”, according to the MOD, and combines multiple laser beams to produce a weapons system which is far more powerful than its predecessors.