News story: Laser weapon prototype part of new Defence innovation initiative

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  1. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has today announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is finalising a £30 million deal for a new laser demonstrator which could transform weapons technology of the future and the development of the UK’s first laser weapon.

    It is just one of the examples of ground-breaking technology that the MOD will support with its new £800 million Innovation Fund.

    Life-saving vital signs monitors, cutting edge anti-missile systems, tiny insect-inspired surveillance drones, quantum gravitational detectors, advanced protective materials, and airborne threat-targeting laser weapons. These are some of the other kinds of ground-breaking technology which the government’s drive for innovation will support from pitch to procurement.

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

    The UK has long enjoyed a reputation as a world leader in innovation. Our new Innovation Initiative will transform Defence culture to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve.

    With a rising Defence budget, and a £178 billion equipment plan, our commitment to collaboration will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain

    The Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) Capability Demonstrator set to be built by MBDA UK Ltd will lead to a one-off prototype, delivered by 2019, that shows how this technology can be exploited in the future. MBDA UK Ltd will assess how the system can acquire and track targets at range and in varying weather conditions over land and water, with sufficient precision to enable safe and effective engagement.

    A novel laser weapon could complement or replace existing weapons systems with the potential for significant benefits. It could be employed to protect our maritime and land forces; for example, ships from threat missiles or soldiers from enemy mortars.

    The Secretary of State revealed the news as he introduced the Ministry of Defence’s new Innovation initiative to allies, industry partners, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), academics, and investors to set out how the UK will stay at the cutting edge of international security and defence.

    The Innovation Initiative will transform the Ministry of Defence’s creative culture by strengthening and streamlining collaboration with both new and established partners.

    The MOD’s commitment to collaboration with UK industry is further demonstrated by the BriteCloud decoy system. Designed and manufactured in Bedfordshire and Scotland, BriteCloud uses powerful radar emissions to disrupt systems within radar-guided air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. A pilot can launch the compact unit, which is packed with advanced electronics, to confuse an attacking missile, drawing it away to a point where it no longer poses a threat.

    The MOD is also in the process of introducing a new vital signs monitor, deployable on land, air, and sea. Similar to a tablet, Tempus Pro is capable of transmitting medical data in real time to medical facilities and treatment teams, giving them a better understanding of a patient’s condition and potentially saving lives.

    The MOD’s investment in these innovative solutions demonstrates how the Government’s £178 billion equipment plan, supported by a rising Defence budget, is ensuring our Armed Forces have the most effective and innovative capability available. The Innovation Initiative aims to strengthen the Defence partnerships which make such projects possible, keeping the UK safe and secure in a complex world.

    The commitment to innovation on a global stage will be on show in October at exercise Unmanned Warrior. More than forty companies from across the world will test their unmanned vehicles in a complex operational environment off the UK coast.

    The Defence Secretary toured the innovation exhibition and took part in a Q&A session with industry, alongside the Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriet Baldwin, the Minister for Security, Ben Wallace, and the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger. Among the exhibits were so-called “Disruptive Capability” projects: technology which displaces established solutions and drives defence forward.

    • SKEETER: a tiny unmanned aerial system with the capacity to revolutionise intelligence gathering in complex urban environments.
    • A Quantum Gravimeter: a portable gravity sensing system which could enable the Armed Forces to survey enemy tunnels and support disaster relief.

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