The Ministry of Defence has awarded a £30 million contract to produce a laser weapon.
The prototype Directed Energy Weapon Capability Demonstrator was given to the UK Dragonfire consortium - consisting of a number defence firms.
Directed energy weapons could be used to destroy drones, missiles, mortars, bombs and a number of other threats.
If the project is successful, the first lasers would come into service in the mid-2020 after a demonstration in 2019.
The prototype will be assessed on how it picks up and tracks targets at different distances and in varied weather conditions over land and water.
The project’s long-term goal is to produce a high-energy laser weapon which can be mounted on ships and ground vehicles.
Speaking in September 2016, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
"A novel laser weapon could complement or replace existing weapons systems with the potential for significant benefits. It could be employed to protect our maritime and land forces; for example, ships from threat missiles or soldiers from enemy mortars."
The US military has been experimenting with lasers for decades.
In 2014 the USS Ponce was used for testing the LaWS weapon system with a power estimated at being between 15-50kw for attacking drones, small aircraft and high-speed boats.
The USS Ponce continues to operate with the weapon.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin said:
“The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation and it is truly ground-breaking projects like the Laser Directed Energy Weapon which will keep this country ahead of the curve.
“The Defence Innovation Initiative and £800M Defence Innovation Fund aim to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, in pursuit of maintaining a military advantage in the future."
The UK Dragonfire consortium includes partners from across the UK including MDBA, QinetiQ, Leonardo-Finmeccanica GKN, Arke, BAE Systems and Marshall ADG.
Images courtesy: MBDA