The UK has successfully fired a high-powered laser weapon as fast as the speed of light at an aerial target for the first time.
In secret trials the DragonFire laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) system proved so accurate it could hit a £1 coin half a mile away.
The high-power laser was fired from a Ministry of Defence station in the Hebrides.
Its range, like much of the technology behind it, remains classified. But its intense beam can cut through targets, such as drones, in its line of sight.
It is also inexpensive. Each ‘shot’ costs around £10, according to defence sources.
The Army and the Royal Navy are considering using the weaponry as part of future Air Defence missions.
The weapon system is a £100million collaboration between the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and industry partners such as Leonardo and Qinetiq. It is not known when DragonFire could enter service.
Grant Shapp, Defence Secretary, 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.’
Dr Paul Hollinshead, Dstl’s chief executive, 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.’
UK defence is continuing to invest in these game-changing technologies and is advancing the plans which will ultimately bring them into service.
Shimon Fhima, Director Strategic Programmes for the MOD, said: ‘The DragonFire trials at the Hebrides demonstrated that our world-leading technology can track and engage high-end effects at range.
‘In a world of evolving threats we know that our focus must be on getting capability to the warfighter and we will look to accelerate this next phase of activity.’