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UK Ministry of Defense Awards Contracts for Laser and Radio Frequency Weapons

The systems will be installed on land and naval vehicles with little modification.

UK Ministry of Defense Awards Contracts for Laser and Radio Frequency Weapons
Laser powered weapons are cost effective against aerial threats like drones. Raytheon UK

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are new-age threats that require new-age solutions. Countering mass-produced drones with multi-million dollar missile systems makes no sense in warfare, therefore, military establishments around the world are developing laser-based systems to counter them. The Ministry of Defense in the U.K. joins the club after investing in three projects to develop laser and radio frequency-based weapon systems, a press release said. 

With advances in technology, laser-based weapon systems are scaling down in size and getting easier to deploy on the field. Once installed, these systems require only a power source and can fire multiple rounds at short notice, making them ideal defenses against drone swarms and other aerial threats. The U.S. military has been trialing laser-based systems for a few years now and even has plans of building the most powerful laser weapon system

Last month, the French Navy tested a similar system that it plans to deploy on its ships. Across the English Channel, the MoD is collaborating with its industrial partners to develop the Novel Weapons Program (NWP). Under a recently concluded agreement, the MoD will fund three contracts to produce advanced laser and radiofrequency demonstrators under the NWP. 

Awarded to a consortium headed by Thales and Raytheon UK, these four-year contracts are worth £72.5 million ($99 million) and are expected to yield a demonstrator that will be tested against UAVs on the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate while another that will be tested on the British Army’s Wolfhound armored vehicle for a similar mission. The third contract is for the production of a radio-frequency weapon that will be mounted on a MAN SV truck belonging to the British Army but capable of dealing with targets on land, in the air, or at sea, the press release said.

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Collectively known as Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), these systems are to be integrated into existing platforms of the British military and expected to undergo user experimentation between 2023 and 2025 to determine their utility as Defense assets in the future, the press release said. 

The MoD has constituted Team Hersa which has been tasked with the management of the delivery of these demonstrators and integrating them on current military infrastructure. Team Hersa consists of personnel from Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in the UK. 

"We must exploit at pace the cutting-edge technologies developed by the talented scientists and engineers across the UK to capitalize on its benefit," said Shimon Fhima, MoD Director Strategic Programs. 

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