The DragonFire laser weapon system, developed by a team led by MBDA UK in collaboration with Leonardo and QinetiQ and contracted through the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), has been at the forefront of this initiative. Designed to demonstrate crucial laser weapon technologies and establish a robust UK capability, DragonFire has undergone successful tracking and firing trials since late 2021.

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MBDA UK spearheads the consortium, handling overall system responsibility and developing command and control features. Leonardo contributes the beam director for precise target tracking, while QinetiQ provides the laser source and technology to enhance power density.

The DragonFire programme showcases the UK government’s Integrated Procurement Model, aimed at reforming defence procurement and accelerating the delivery of military capabilities. With Defence Secretary Grant Shapps announcing the decision to expedite the programme, DragonFire is poised to transition from a demonstration to an operational capability for the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy views DragonFire as a cost-effective solution for countering specific threats like unmanned aerial vehicles and fast inshore attack craft. While specific ship fits are yet to be disclosed, installations are expected across multiple vessels, including the Type 45 destroyers.

To meet the ambitious timeline, the productionised DragonFire system will closely resemble the demonstrator, minimizing the need for extensive redesign. It will likely feature its own power storage system, rechargeable by the ship’s main power supply, allowing for rapid deployment.

The industry partners are actively working to develop 'productised' designs based on the modular architecture of the demonstrator, including scaling power and ensuring system durability for field use.

As the programme progresses, further live firings, manufacturing, and installation of weapon systems onto ship platforms are on the horizon, although detailed schedules and contract awards remain undisclosed.