UK developing radio wave weapons to down drone swarms

The cutting-edge weapon can be used to incapacitate land, air and sea drones

The Radio Frequency Directed Energy Weapon is being developed to destroy drones. PA
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Radio wave weapons are being developed that can destroy incoming drones, a UK government minister has revealed.

The Radio Frequency Directed Energy Weapon (RFDEW) fires radio waves to disrupt or damage vital electronic components in enemy drones.

The cutting-edge weapon, in development for the UK’s armed forces, can be used to target land, air and sea drones, and to take down swarms of the aircraft.

“Developments like RFDEW not only make our personnel more lethal and better protected on the battlefield, but also keep the UK a world leader on innovative military kit,” said Defence Procurement Minister James Cartlidge.

“The war in Ukraine has shown us the importance of deploying uncrewed systems, but we must be able to defend against them too.

“As we ramp up our defence spending in the coming years, our Defence Drone Strategy will ensure we are at the forefront of this warfighting evolution.”

Details of the new weapon, with a range so far of up to 1km, came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to increase UK defence spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

On Tuesday, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK will order up to six drone-carrying warships for its Royal Navy.

The weapon is similar to the DragonFire laser which uses an intense light beam to cut through their target and can strike at the speed of light. The DragonFire could be rolled out as soon as 2027, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps announced earlier this week.

DragonFire laser weapon system – in pictures

The new vessels, known as Multi Role Support Ships, will be designed to carry a “broad range” of drones along with vehicles, aircraft and stealth combat craft.

The RFDEW system can be mounted on military vehicles, and uses a mobile power source to produce pulses of a radio-frequency energy in a beam that fires sequenced shots at a single target, or it can be broadened to hit a series of targets.

It is being developed by a joint team from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Defence Equipment & Support, working with UK industry under Project Hersa.

DSTL chief executive Paul Hollinshead said: “These game-changing systems will deliver decisive operational advantage to the UK armed forces, saving lives and defeating deadly threats.

“World-class capabilities such as this are only possible because of decades of research, expertise and investment in science and technology at DSTL and our partners in UK industry.”

The new weapons system will undergo extensive testing with British soldiers over the summer.

With an estimated cost of 10p per radio wave shot, the government said the technology was hoped to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional missiles.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 10:58 AM