Royal Navy: MoD developing advanced drone killer radio wave weapon after Red Sea attacks

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A sophisticated weapon which disables drones using radio waves is under development.

The Ministry of Defence is putting together a Radio Frequency Directed Energy Weapon (RFDEW) which can detect and target a range of machine threats on land and sea. James Cartlidge, minister for defence procurement, said: “We are already a force to be reckoned with on science and technology, and 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.”

Drones have been used by hostile forces on a regular basis. Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer, HMS Diamond shot down a barrage of drones and missiles operated by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. Similar unmanned aircraft has also been used by Russia in the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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A cutting-edge drone killer radio wave weapon is being developed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Royal Navy vessels and other vehicles. Picture: MoD.A cutting-edge drone killer radio wave weapon is being developed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Royal Navy vessels and other vehicles. Picture: MoD.
A cutting-edge drone killer radio wave weapon is being developed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Royal Navy vessels and other vehicles. Picture: MoD. | MoD

Mr Cartlidge, Conservative MP for South Suffolk, said: “The war in Ukraine has shown us the importance of deploying un-crewed 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.”

The RFDEW system can effect targets up to 1km away. Work is ongoing to extend the range of the weapon. It beams radio waves to disrupt or damage the critical electronic components of enemy vehicles.

UK minister of State (Minister for Defence Procurement) James Cartlidge. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.UK minister of State (Minister for Defence Procurement) James Cartlidge. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.
UK minister of State (Minister for Defence Procurement) James Cartlidge. Picture: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images.

This causes them to stop in their tracks. It costs 10p per shot, with the system being pushed as a cost-effective alternative to traditional missile systems. The technology uses a mobile power source to produce pulses of Radio Frequency energy in a beam that can rapidly fire sequenced shots at individual targets or be broadened to simultaneously engage all threats within that beam.

Paul Hollinshead, chairman of Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) - which is carrying out the project alongside Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) under Project Hersa - 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.”

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