UK considers providing its latest laser weapons to Ukraine

Friday, 12 April 2024

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that prototypes of the latest laser weapons being developed in the United Kingdom could potentially be provided to Ukraine to bolster its air defence systems. However, this is likely to occur no earlier than a few years from now.

According to The Independent, Shapps suggested that prototypes of the latest DragonFire laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) system, which were first tested in January 2024, could potentially be provided to Ukraine in the future for application and testing in real-world conditions without waiting for the system's enhancements to be completed to the final version.

Originally, it was planned that DragonFire would begin production in 2032, but now the UK Defence Ministry has stated that they aim to achieve this earlier – by 2027. 

Speaking to the media at the military technology research centre in Salisbury, Shapps said that he will explore possibilities to further accelerate the development pace so that it could be deployed in real-world conditions, including in Ukraine.


"I’ve come down to speed up the production of the DragonFire laser system because I think given that there’s two big conflicts on, one sea-based, one in Europe, this could have huge ramifications to have a weapon capable particularly of taking down drones," Shapps said.

Shapps noted that he would like to expedite the normally lengthy development-procurement procedures to much shorter terms so that the system could be deployed on ships and potentially on land as quickly as possible for use against combat drones.

"On incoming drones, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how that could be helpful in Ukraine for example," the minister said.

"(A new arms procurement process) in place is designed to not wait until we have this at 99.9 per cent perfection before it goes into the field, but get it to sort of 70 per cent and then get it out there and then... develop it from there," Shapps explained.

Asked whether DragonFire could be ready before 2027, he said that he had discussed such possibilities with experts and that the system "didn’t have to be 100 per cent perfect in order for Ukrainians perhaps to get their hands on it – 2027 is still the date as of this moment".

"But of course I’ll look to see what we can do to speed up. … In a more dangerous world, our approach to procurement is shifting. We need to be more urgent, more critical and more global," Shapps emphasised.

The UK government stated that DragonFire will be distinguished by its high speed and accuracy, with its additional advantage being its low cost compared to air defence missiles – a single shot lasting 10 seconds is equivalent in cost to using a standard heater for an hour.

Read also: "The era of peace dividend is over. Moving from a post-war to a pre-war world." Historic speech by UK Defence Secretary

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