UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told an audience of Ministry of Defense civil servants, academics and other industry representatives at an event in London on Friday that his organization will spend some $40 million on a deal with MBDA to build a high-energy laser weapon prototype.
The reasons for the protest are not known. As a DSTL spokesman said, "For reasons of commercial confidentiality we do not discuss details of any discussions with the tenderers." The Thales UK protest was eventually rejected.
MBDA leads Dragonfire, a consortium of companies including BAE Systems, Leonardo-Finmeccania, Marshall Defence and Aerospace, and Qinetiq. Under the agreement, MBDA will deliver the one-off demonstrator prototype by 2019.
The MoD said that it will show "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 new laser weapon is expected to "complement or replace existing weapons systems with the potential for significant benefits," including defending ships from missile attack.
Development of the prototype will be conducted under a program considered to be a UK catch-up effort on laser weapon development. Britain has not seen development in the sector for over a decade, according to Defense News.