TECHNOLOGY

Britain builds Star Wars-style laser weapons to shoot down drones

The weapon system would be installed on a Wolfhound land vehicle Raytheon UK

A town in Scotland will soon house a high-energy laser weapons center that will test and maintain the systems capable of hitting targets six miles away.

Defense technology company Raytheon UK plans to open the ‘advanced laser integration center’ at Livingston in West Lothian next year. Officials hope it will serve as a hub for Europe.

These laser weapons are designed to fight “asymmetric threats” such as drones, missiles, artillery and mortars, said Michael Hofle, senior director of high energy lasers at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.

“Demand for cost-effective lasers is rising” to defeat these threats, he said, adding that the company’s technology would help its customers “defend the skies.”

The technology does not require replaceable ammunition, so it may be cheaper than other forms of weaponry in the long run.

Lasers shooting drones out of the sky may be reminiscent of the high-tech combat in science fiction movies like Star Wars.

But the company’s president of electronic warfare systems, Annabel Flores, said the real thing didn’t look all that exciting because the laser beams are invisible.

The advanced laser integration center will be located in Livingston, West Lothian in Scotland Raytheon UK

She told the BBC: ‘Hollywood makes it look very, very interesting and very dramatic. And this is a little different. It might look a little anti-climactic.”

Raytheon argues that their technology’s usefulness has been demonstrated, however, during combat in Ukraine, where cheap drones have been used to correct artillery fire and even transport explosives.

The British government has invested in ‘directed energy’ weapons, £72.5 million of contracts for the tech last fall, including testing a vehicle-mounted laser system.

These weapons work by firing beams of highly focused energy, such as lasers or microwaves, at a precise target. Flores said Raytheon’s technology was a “cost-effective” way to tackle drones and other similar devices.

The weapon system could knock drones out of the sky Shutterstock

Jeremy Quin, Secretary of Defense Procurement, said at the time, “Directed energy weapons are an important part of our future equipment programs and we intend to become a global leader in researching, manufacturing and deploying this next-generation technology.”

Shimon Fhima, Director of Strategic Programs at the Ministry of Defense, added: “These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the future battlefield for our armed forces, enabling the pursuit of new targets in the land, sea and and air domain becomes possible and commanders can achieve the mission objectives. in new ways.’

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