Laser weapon to be installed on Royal Navy ships

From 2027 Royal Navy vessels are to be armed with laser weapons developed by the DragonFire laser programme led by MBDA in partnership with Leonardo and Qinetiq.


Announced by defence secretary Grant Shapps, the decision will see the DragonFire laser directed energy weapon system rapidly develop from a demonstration programme to an operational capability for the Royal Navy.

The next stages of this development will include further live firings and the manufacture and installation of weapon systems onto Royal Navy vessels.

The UK DragonFire programme leverages MBDA’s weapon system manufacturing expertise, Leonardo’s laser technology, electro-optics and advanced targeting, and Qinetiq’s development and safe operation of high-energy laser sources and coherent beam-combining technology.

In a statement, Mark Stead, Leonardo UK SVP Radar and Advanced Targeting, said:  “Leonardo welcomes the commitment to UK science and engineering represented by today’s announcement. The development of DragonFire is securing vital skills and security capabilities onshore in the UK, keeping them available to support our Armed Forces and generate world-class, readily exportable products.”

The latest announcement follows a series of highly successful firing trials at the MOD Hebrides Range that demonstrated the capability of the DragonFire laser weapon system. The range of DragonFire is classified, but it is a line-of-sight weapon that can engage with any visible target.

DragonFire has been developed through a £100m joint investment by industry and the UK Ministry of Defence, working with Dstl.

Steve Wadey, Group CEO, Qinetiq, said: “Today’s announcement is a positive endorsement of UK industry and government working together, to deliver equipment to the front line.

“Our team of scientists and engineers who have developed this world leading capability have played a unique role in developing a technology that will provide real operational advantage.”