LONDON, Sept.18 (Xinhua) -- Britain's Ministry of Defense (MOD) confirmed Sunday it is finalizing a contract worth almost 40 million U.S. dollars to develop the country's first laser weapons for military use.
The contract with British firm MBDA UK will see the development of a Laser Directed Energy Weapon Capability Demonstrator,
The project will assess innovative laser directed energy weapon technologies and approaches, culminating in a demonstration of the system in 2018/19, said the MOD.
Called Dragonfire, it sounds like something straight from science fiction movie such as Star Wars. What would be Britain's first laser weapon, was capable of being mounted on ships to shoot down enemy jets and missiles or even used by ground forces to destroy incoming mortar rounds.
It could replace conventional systems, offering a lower cost and more efficient alternative to current weapons. A laser only needs a power source to fire, whereas conventional weapons need ammunition or use missiles, which relatively expensive and take up space.
The company behind the technology, MBDA UK, say the initiative will put Britain at the forefront of laser system technology.
MBDA spokesman Dave Armstrong said: "Dragonfire will put the UK at the forefront of high energy laser systems, capitalizing on the experience of joint MoD/Industry working in the complex weapons environment.
"Furthermore, it advances the UK towards a future product with significant export potential, as well as providing opportunities for partnerships with other nations' armed forces that have similar requirements."
The MOD said the contract will assess how the system can acquire and track targets at range, in varying weather conditions, over land and water, and, crucially, with sufficient precision to enable safe and effective engagement.
Nick Joad, from the MOD's Defense Science and Technology (Dstl) said the project is being made possible under a disruptive capabilities initiative that the MOD is delivering to ensure it retains the ability to have a decisive edge through the use of advanced technology.
Dstl's Peter Cooper said: "This is a significant demonstration program aimed at maturing our understanding of what is still an immature technology. It draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by UK armed forces."
Rear Admiral Paul Bennett said the Royal Navy remains committed to the rapid exploitation of revolutionary concepts and scientific advances.
"The project sits alongside other cutting edge initiatives that together keep the Royal Navy at the forefront of change and well placed to be an early adopter of innovative technologies," said Bennett. Enditem