UK to develop electric-powered lasers that don't need ammunition

Key Points
  • The systems can be fueled by the engine or generator of a vehicle, cutting operating costs in the process.
  • Laser weapons systems use "high energy light beams" to target and destroy drones and missiles.
An array of laser beams for protection
Fry Design Ltd | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

The U.K. government says it's developing laser and radio frequency weapons that could "revolutionize the battlefield."

In a statement Tuesday, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the weapons – dubbed Directed Energy Weapons, or DEW – would be powered by electricity and operated without ammunition. The systems, authorities added, could be fueled by the engine or generator of a vehicle, cutting operating costs in the process.

Laser weapons systems use what the MOD described as "high energy light beams" to target and then destroy drones and missiles. Radio frequency weapons "disrupt and disable" computers and electronics.

The MOD said it wanted to develop three new DEW demonstrators to look into the technology's potential and "accelerate its introduction onto the battlefield."

Trials for the new systems are slated to take place in 2023 on Army vehicles and Royal Navy ships. The MOD said the experiments would be used to better understand DEW and "test the systems to their limits."

The demonstrators come under the blanket of the MOD's Novel Weapons Program, which aims to trial and implement cutting edge weapons systems. The MOD said it expected them to be on the frontline "within 10 years."

Penny Mordaunt, the U.K.'s defense secretary, said that laser and radio frequency technologies had "the potential to revolutionize the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces."

Plans are already in place for other trials of laser weapon systems. Later this year, a demonstrator for the Dragonfire Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW), which uses multiple laser beams, will be tested.