UK Considers Providing Newest Laser Weapon to Ukraine

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.12 - 2024 12:47 PM CET

Photo: GOV.UK
Photo: GOV.UK
Britain is considering providing its newest laser weapon to Ukraine.

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British Defense Minister Grant Shapps has indicated that the UK is exploring the possibility of providing Ukraine with prototypes of its latest laser weapon systems to bolster its air defenses.

The prototypes in question are part of the DragonFire Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) system, which underwent its initial tests in January 2024.

Accelerated Development Plans

Originally scheduled for production in 2032, the timeline for the DragonFire system has been pushed forward, with the British Ministry of Defense now targeting 2027 as the new goal for production commencement.

This acceleration is part of a broader effort to respond more swiftly to global conflicts by deploying advanced technologies in real-world scenarios sooner.

"We have two major conflicts going on - one at sea [probably referencing the Houthi fighters who attack merchant ships in the Red Sea - Ed.], one in Europe. The presence of weapons that can effectively shoot down drones can greatly affect development of events," Shapps noted.

Speaking at the Military Technology Research Center in Salisbury, Shapps expressed his commitment to speeding up the traditionally lengthy development and procurement processes.

Potential Early Deployment

Shapps discussed the possibility of deploying these systems even if they have not reached full perfection, suggesting a readiness level of around 70% could be sufficient to start making a difference on the ground.

"It is not difficult to imagine how it could help, for example, Ukraine," Shapps remarked.

He added, "[The new procurement system] is aimed at not waiting until we have 99.9% perfect weapons before they go 'to the fields', but to go to the conditional 70%, start using them and then develop them further."

When questioned about the possibility of the DragonFire system being ready before 2027, Shapps mentioned that discussions with experts have opened up the potential for earlier deployment.

He stressed that the weapon does not need to be 100% perfect for it to be potentially useful for the Ukrainian military.

Revising Procurement Strategies

In light of the changing global security landscape, Shapps emphasized the need for a revised approach to procurement that allows for faster responses and more global engagement.

"But, of course, I will explore options on how we can speed up the process... In a more dangerous world, our approach to procurement needs to change accordingly. We need to be able to act faster and more globally," he concluded.

The British government stated that the DragonFire laser system promises high speed, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional anti-aircraft missiles, with the cost of a 10-second shot being equivalent to running a conventional heater for an hour.

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