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Navy’s new Dragonfire laser weapon gets energy boost from Formula One flywheel

Professional Engineering

Stock image (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image (Credit: Shutterstock)

Sounding like something from Game of Thrones but actually being built for the Royal Navy, development of the Dragonfire laser weapon has been boosted by a flywheel created for Formula One.

Officially known as the Dragonfire Laser Directed Energy Weapon, the naval warfare device will have a power rating of 50kW according to the UK Defence Journal. The weapon will reportedly provide “very short-range air defence capability, close-in protection for naval vessels, counter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and protect friendly forces from mortar and artillery attack.” It could also dazzle enemy equipment.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and industry are developing the weapon. Today (1 May), the government announced that GKN and DSTL have developed an energy storage system for the weapon based on technology originally created by the Williams F1 team.

The Flywheel Energy Storage System (Fess) “uses innovative high-speed and lightweight flywheels to provide high-power electrical pulses that these future systems [the Dragonfire] require, reducing the impact of these systems to the rest of the ship, while avoiding the widely reported safety concern around battery-based systems,” the government said.

The Fess is “an attractive option to bolster defence capability through the provision of more robust and futureproof power systems for naval ships,” said DSTL senior principal marine systems engineer Andrew Tate.

It was tested collaboratively in the US and UK, using virtual ship power systems emulating a Royal Navy ship operating in real time.

“This testing can accelerate equipment development, de-risk integration challenges, and limit the need for costly shore demonstrators,” said Kyle Jennett, Ministry of Defence technical lead at the Power Networks Demonstration Centre in Scotland.

The US has already installed and used its own laser weapon on a ship, the USS Ponce.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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