'Cutting-edge' laser weapons to be developed for British military

Laser and radiofrequency weapons demonstrators are set to be developed for the British military after contracts worth about £72.5m were awarded to UK industry.

Known as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), it is thought they could revolutionise the battlefield by using 'cutting-edge' laser and radiofrequency weapons technology, leading to a reduced risk of collateral damage.

The examples are being developed as part of the Novel Weapons Programme (NWP).

The systems are powered by electricity and operate without ammunition, which reduces operating costs, increases platform endurance and provides offensive and defensive flexibility to personnel on the frontline, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said.

The MOD awarded the four-year contracts to the group headed by Thales and Raytheon UK, securing 249 jobs and creating at least another 49 new roles.

Computer generated infographic showing a Type 45 and some land assets with laser weapons
Computer generated infographic showing a Type 45 destroyer and land assets with laser weapons (Picture: BAE/Thales).

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said: "We are investing £6.6bn in research and development across defence over the next four years, reaffirming our commitment to provide the Armed Forces with truly advanced capabilities.

"Directed Energy Weapons are a key element of our future equipment programmes and we intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology.

"The whole process of our R and D (Research and Development) programme and our investment is accelerating the speed of change, bringing things faster and more affectively to the front line."

The first laser will undergo user testing on board a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate by detecting, tracking, engaging and countering Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Watch: 'A number of years' before laser weapons on the battlefield, Defence Minister says

The British Army's Wolfhound armoured vehicle will host a laser demonstrator that will investigate capability against UAVs and other air threats.

The radiofrequency demonstrator also used by the British Army is to be hosted on a MAN SV truck to detect and track a variety of air, land and sea targets.

Trials will take place in 2023 of laser and radiofrequency weapons, with full capabilities expected to be in service within 10 years.

MOD Director Strategic Programmes, Shimon Fhima, said: "These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the future battlefield for our Armed Forces, enabling the prosecution of new targets in the land, sea and air domains and allowing commanders to meet mission objectives in new ways.

"We must exploit at pace the cutting-edge technologies developed by the talented scientists and engineers across the UK to capitalise on its benefit."

Join Our Newsletter


Is Ukraine using an aircraft-imitating missile to confuse Russian defences?

HIV stats in Armed Forces revealed a year on from serving ban lifted

Over 1,500 soldiers rehearse for role in historic Trooping the Colour