LONDON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Britain's Ministry of Defense has awarded MBDA and other industry partners a $36 million contract to produce a Laser Directed Energy Weapon demonstrator.
The contract, which aims to allow Britain's first laser weapon to enter service by the mid-2020s, will task contractors to assess the technology's capabilities. Project leaders hope to demonstrate the system in 2019.
"The U.K. has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation and it is truly ground-breaking projects like the Laser Directed Energy Weapon which will keep this country ahead of the curve," U.K. Defense Procurement Minister Harriet Baldwin said in a press release. "Our commitment to innovation will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain."
The work will be conducted by the U.K. Dragonfire consortium, which includes MDBA, QinetiQ, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Arke, GKN, Marshall ADG and BAE Systems. The contractors will aid the ministry's Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, or DSTL, with identifying a plan for developing in-service capabilities.
"This is a significant demonstration programme aimed at maturing our understanding of what is still an immature technology," DSTL's Peter Cooper said. "It draws on innovative research into high power lasers so as to understand the potential of the technology to provide a more effective response to the emerging threats that could be faced by U.K. armed forces."