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A secret laser weapon tested at the Royal Artillery Range in Uist earlier this year is expected to be fast-tracked into service and may be deployed in Ukraine to shoot down Russian drones.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that DragonFire, a Star Wars-style weapon, could be used against Russian drones much sooner than originally expected.

The system’s first live firing test took place in Uist in January. It is said to be capable of striking targets the size of a pound coin.

Though 2032 was originally quoted as a deployment date, Shapps yesterday (Thursday, April 11) suggested this will be drastically reduced to 2027 or even sooner before it is “100 percent perfect.”” Once in Ukrainian hands, the laser system could have “a huge impact” on the Russian invasion.

The DragonFire is a state-of-the-art laser-guided energy weapon that penetrates a target with an intense beam of light.

With its 50kW speed of light beam, it is designed to shoot down attack drones, missiles, aircraft and even satellites.

DragonFire’s range is classified, but the Ministry of Defence said it can attack any visible target, heating it instantly to over 3,000 degrees Celsius.

DragonFire can operate almost indefinitely as long as it has a power source. Its development, which cost £140 million, was relatively cheap, and each shot costs just £10.

The Uist test firing of a DragonFire prototype was the first high-powered launch of a laser weapon against air targets in the UK.

Declassified footage of the secret test showed a lightning-fast burst of red light shooting into the sky.

A Royal Navy warship has already fired it and will be tested by the Royal Artillery in the autumn.

The Defence Minister commented about the DragonFire weapons system while visiting the secret research facility at Porton Down in Wiltshire.

He said he wishes to accelerate DragonFire production since there are two major conflicts - Ukraine and the Red Sea where Houthis are attacking shipping with drones and rockets.

Shapps said he plans a “much shorter time frame for deployment, potentially on ships, incoming drones and possibly on land.”

He added: “It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could be helpful in Ukraine, for example.”

Shapps claimed the laser weapon system could be rolled out when it was about 70% finalised and evolved in the field.

Russia’s war recently entered its third year, with Kyiv holding on despite running low on military material and aid money. Since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, the UK has pledged almost £12 billion in support, including £7.1 billion in military aid.

 

Image credit: MoD