16:38 13.04.2024

British DragonFire laser could be used against Russian drones in Ukraine – Shapps

3 min read

British DragonFire laser weapons could be sent to Ukraine to destroy Russian drones, British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps has said.

Shapps said the weapons could have "huge ramifications" for the conflict in Europe, the BBC said on Friday.

DragonFire is expected to be deployed by 2027, but Mr. Shapps said he would like to "speed up" production and make it available sooner. The Defense Secretary told reporters during a visit to the Porton Down military research centre near Salisbury that he wanted to speed up the process further.

"Let's say it didn't have to be 100% perfect in order for Ukrainians perhaps to get their hands on it," he said.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) says the faster timetable comes to the "rapidly changing threat environment" facing by the UK.

According to the MoD, the weapon is precise enough to hit a GBP 1 coin from a kilometre away, according to the MoD. It is hoped that it will pave the way for a low-cost alternative to missiles, to shoot down targets such as drones. January's successful test of the weapon was carried out at the MoD's Hebrides Range in Scotland and was hailed as a "major step" in bringing laser-directed energy weapons (LDEWs) into service.

The greatest advantage of lasers is cost and, in theory, an "unlimited magazine" of ammunition - as long as there is a reliable source of power. But the big drawback is that they can only fire at targets in the line of sight, unlike most missiles.

DEWs use an intense light beam to cut through their target and can strike at the speed of light. As a line-of-sight weapon, it can attack any visible target that is close enough, although the range of the DragonFire system is classified. Missiles can be far more expensive than the drones they destroy, with some costing millions of pounds compared with a few thousands. The MoD says firing the DragonFire system for 10 seconds is the cost equivalent of using a regular heater for an hour, with the operating expense typically less than GBP 10 a shot.

Any suggestion that UK lasers could be sent to Ukraine to take out Russian drones is optimistic.

As the report states, "Ukraine's demands are more urgent. It requires mobile air defence systems which have been proven in battle. With its electrical grid constantly being targeted by Russia, lasers which require a source of power, are unlikely to be the solution to Ukraine's urgent needs."