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UK scraps Type 23 frigate LDEW test plan

The UK MoD has cancelled earlier plans to fit an LDEW demonstrator to a Type 23 frigate. (Thales)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has dropped plans to trial a laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) demonstrator from a Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 frigate.

Revealing the decision in a 30 January parliamentary answer, Minister of State for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge said the move was intended to free up money for the UK's wider Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) programme. Thales had been under contract to develop the maritime LDEW demonstrator.

The UK began industry competitions in 2020 for three different DEW capability demonstrators: a maritime LDEW demonstrator under Project Tracey; a vehicle-based LDEW demonstrator named Project Swinton; and a land-based radio frequency (RF) DEW counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) prototype designated Project Ealing. The MoD in September 2021 announced that Thales UK had been selected to deliver Project Tracey and Project Ealing, while a consortium led by Raytheon UK had been contracted for Project Swinton.

At the time of the contract award, the MoD said the maritime LDEW demonstrator would undergo user testing onboard a Type 23 frigate from 2023. The intention was to explore the full decision making process for detect-track-engage against both UASs as well as surface targets, with the LDEW system to be integrated into the host ship's combat system. To deliver Project Tracey, Thales assembled a team including BAE Systems, Chess Dynamics, Vision4CE, and IPG.

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