Grant Shapps: Britain could send powerful laser to Ukraine to fight Russian drones

The UK's high-powered laser weapon could be sent to Ukraine's frontline to shoot down Russian drones, Britain's defense minister said, reports "with the BBC".

According to Grant Shapps, the DragonFire weapon is expected to be in service by 2027, but he says he wants to "accelerate" production and make it available sooner.

His commitment follows the successful test of the laser against an aerial target for the first time in January.

The laser was originally expected to be operational by 2032, but new reforms aimed at speeding up government procurement of the weapon mean it will now be ready five years earlier.

Even so, the defense secretary told reporters during a visit to the Porton Down military research center near Salisbury that he wanted to speed this up even further.

"Let's just say it doesn't have to be 100% perfect for Ukrainians to get it," he said.

The Ministry of Defense says the faster schedule comes in response to the "rapidly changing environment" the UK faces.

The DragonFire weapon system is the result of a £100 million joint investment by the Ministry of Defense and British military industry.

The weapon is accurate enough to hit a £1 coin at a distance of one kilometre, its specifications say.

It is hoped that this will pave the way for a low-cost alternative to missiles to shoot down targets such as drones, the Ministry of Defense said.

A successful test of the weapon in January was carried out at the Ministry of Defense's Hebrides test site in Scotland and was hailed as a "major step" in the fielding of laser-guided energy weapons.

The biggest advantage of lasers is cost and, theoretically, "unlimited use" – as long as there is a reliable power source.

But a major drawback is that they can only hit targets in line of sight, unlike most missiles.

The US has been testing directed energy weapons for decades. They have been placed on several warships for testing and evaluation.

 

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