The UK’s first high powered, long range laser-directed energy weapon has been successfully test fired in Wiltshire.

Trials using DragonFire were the culmination of joint investment by the Ministry of Defence and industry, totalling around £100m, and involved firing at targets on the Porton Down ranges.

While the capability of the weapon remains classified the trial took place on ranges with a maximum distance of 3.4km to ensure safety.

The ministry's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory says the programme could potentially have a huge impact on the future of defence.

The lab's technical partner Ben Maddison said: “This trial is the culmination of design, development and demonstration activity over several years.

“DragonFire has already successfully demonstrated an ability to track targets with very high levels of precision and to maintain a laser beam on the selected aim-point.

“This trial has assessed the performance of the laser itself – the outcome shows that the UK has world-leading capability in the technologies associated with LDEW systems.”

Mark Hamilton, managing director of electronics for Leonardo UK, one of the firms involved, said: “The UK is at the very forward edge of what is possible in laser technology.

“The results of this live trial, which saw our beam director integrated into the DragonFire system, were impressive”. 

Chris Allam, UK managing director and executive group director of engineering at MBDA, which has overall responsibility for the system, is confident that DragonFire will be ready in the short term.

He said: “These successful trials are the latest step in accelerating delivery of a UK sovereign LDEW capability.

“MBDA, Leonardo, QinetiQ and DSTL all working together are putting the UK at the forefront of research and technology in laser domain. 

“The results from these trials have verified analysis and given the team confidence that DragonFire will offer a near term and unique capability.”

QinetiQ Chief Executive, Steve Wadey added: “The trial has proven the performance of these laser technologies and their potential for adoption in sovereign defence capabilities.”

The MOD’s hope is that DragonFire technology will provide the basis for several future weapons systems.