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Britain says it is developing a radio-wave weapon that can take out a swarm of drones for just $0.12 a shot

Thibault Spirlet   

Britain says it is developing a radio-wave weapon that can take out a swarm of drones for just $0.12 a shot
  • The UK has unveiled a new radio frequency-directed energy weapon under development.
  • The Ministry of Defence said it could take out a swarm of drones for just $0.12 a shot.

Britain is developing a new radio-wave weapon designed to take out a "swarm" of drones for just $0.12 a shot, the UK's Ministry of Defence said in a press statement.

According to the MOD, the Radio Frequency Directed Energy Weapon, or RFDEW, uses radio waves to detect, track, and disable electronic components at a range of up to 1000 meters.

It touted it as a far more affordable option than traditional missile-based air-defense systems and said that thanks to its high level of automation, it can be operated by a single person.

"The war in Ukraine has shown us the importance of deploying uncrewed systems, but we must be able to defend against them too," James Cartlidge, the UK's Minister for Defence Procurement, said.

According to the MOD, the weapon can be mounted on a range of military vehicles and produces pulses in a beam that can be expanded to engage multiple threats or quickly fire sequential bullets at specific targets.

Soldiers will field test it over the summer, it added.

The conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the growing importance of unmanned aerial vehicles to modern warfare.

Ukraine and Russia have both deployed thousands of drones, and in an interview with Foreign Policy last month, a NATO official said that Ukrainian drones were responsible for two-thirds of recent Russian tank losses.

Ukraine has also sent drones far into Russia to target oil facilities.

Drones have also been used by Houthi rebels against ships in the Red Sea, and last month Iran used drones and missiles in a thwarted attack on Israel.

Paul Hollinshead, the CEO of one of the companies developing the new weapon, said the system will provide the UK armed forces with a "decisive" operational advantage, saving lives and neutralizing "deadly" threats.

Directed-energy weapons, including high-energy lasers and high-power radio frequency or microwave devices, have taken on renewed importance as they are considered the future of anti-drone and anti-satellite warfare.

The Pentagon is spending $1 billion a year on directed-energy weapons to counter drones and missiles, according to a report published by the Government Accountability Office last year.

Other countries, including France, China, Germany, Russia, India, and Israel, are also racing to develop their own directed-energy weapons.

In January, the UK MOD tested-fired its DragonFire, a powerful laser cannon that can shoot drones out of the sky.

Turkey was the first country to use directed-energy weapons in combat, to destroy a combat vehicle in Libya in 2019, according to the military and defense website Army Recognition.