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DSEI 2021: UK reveals contracts for new directed-energy weapon demonstrators

A computed-generated image of what a Wolfhound laser-based C-UAV system could look like. (Raytheon UK)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed the award of three contracts for the development and demonstration of experimental directed-energy weapon (DEW) systems.

Awarded to industry consortia led by Raytheon UK and Thales UK, the contracts – covering laser and radio frequency (RF) capability demonstrators for the British Army and the Royal Navy (RN) – are collectively valued at GBP72.5 million (USD100.3 million). Forming part of the MoD's wider Novel Weapons Programme, the systems will be integrated onto existing platforms for user experimentation from 2023.

DEW systems are powered by electricity and operate without ammunition, thus significantly reducing operating costs, increasing platform endurance, and providing a high degree of offensive and defensive flexibility. Their pinpoint targeting and scalable effects also reduce the risk of collateral damage.

Announcing the contracts at DSEI 2021, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said DEW systems constitute “a key element of our future equipment programmes” and that the UK aspires “to become a world leader in the research, manufacture, and implementation of this next-generation technology”.

Raytheon UK – teamed with Frazier Nash Consultants, NP Aerospace, and Raytheon Technologies – will deliver a vehicle-based laser DEW (LDEW) demonstrator for up to six months of user experimentation led by the British Army. The system will be installed on a Wolfhound six-wheeled armoured vehicle, with experimentation planned for 2023. User experimentation will address counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) effects and the prosecution of land-based targets.

“This is the [UK's] first real step into utilising such a laser in a real-world environment,” Raytheon UK's director of strategy and business development, Simon Kings, told Janes

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