The UK could be one step closer to Star Wars-style laser battles, following the government's decision to invest in new 'laser weapons'.
The Ministry of Defence announced it has awarded three contracts worth around £72.5 million to 'directed energy weapons' (DEW), a.k.a. laser guns.
Powered by electricity and requiring no ammunition, the weapons are said to run at a significantly reduced cost compared to ordinary munitions.
The first laser will be tested onboard a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, where it will be trialled in detecting, tracking, and countering UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones.
The British Army will also give the lasers a spin on a Wolfhound armoured vehicle, again to test its resilience against airborne threats.
"These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the future battlefield for our Armed Forces, enabling the prosecution of new targets in the land, sea and air domains and allowing commanders to meet mission objectives in new ways," said Shimon Fhima, the MOD's director of strategic programmes.
The contracts come as part of a wider £6 billion investment push by the UK military, which will be spent on research and development as well as new kit over the next four years.
The Ministry of Defence once reportedly gave a previous contract to a French missile company to build a directed energy weapon called 'Dragonfire'. Despite promising a public demo by 2019, the laser never materialised—apparently, the mirrors used to direct the laser were being melted by its intensity.
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It seems the British military is intent on obtaining as many high-tech sci-fi weapons as possible. Just last week, the Royal Navy revealed its 'future vision' for self-driving boats, underwater warships, and flying drone stations.
The proposals were generated by young naval engineers as part of a design challenge, and the Navy says some of the initial concepts will be deployed operationally in the near future.
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