Reliance Plays a Part in UK First

Jan 26, 2024

​Actuation designed and manufactured by Reliance Precision Limited (‘Reliance’) played a part in a UK first this month. The DragonFire laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system achieved the UK’s first high-power firing of a laser weapon against aerial targets during a trial at the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Hebrides range. The demonstrator system, currently being used in trials, contains four identical assemblies supplied by Reliance designed for azimuth and elevation control. 

The DragonFire laser is a result of a £100 million joint investment between the MOD and UK industry including MBDA, Leonardo and QinetiQ. It is hoped this new sovereign capability will eventually provide the armed forces with a more cost-effective counter measure, better suited to targeting newer technology like drones, which will also lower the risk of collateral damage. 

As an existing Leonardo supplier, Reliance was approached to provide gearing for the system’s beam direction system. The laser is designed to work over long ranges with incredible accuracy. Reliance is well known for its expertise in gear design and manufacture, as well as its capabilities in providing precision control mechanisms for photonics applications.  

Nathan Bowers, Key Account Manager (Aerospace Defence) comments: 

“Interestingly, the application called for a larger gear than what we typically produce. For Reliance, ‘precision’ usually means small, but this was precision on a bigger scale, and we were eager to take on the challenge. Initially, we met with Leonardo’s design engineers and another supplier, responsible for the part of the system that would interface with ours. This gave us the opportunity to showcase our knowledge of precision gears and discuss the project in detail to ensure that it would work first time, despite us developing our respective assemblies in different countries. It was a really positive problem-solving collaboration between two suppliers and the customer.” 

The assembly supplied by Reliance comprises a pinion gear and custom adapter flange manufactured in-house, as well as other sub-contracted components. The sub-system was assembled in Reliance’s Fine Assembly facility before being tested using the company’s proprietary Transmission Error Measurement System (TEMS). 

Tom Worsley, Technical Director said:
“Reliance’s involvement in the UK DragonFire supply chain demonstrates how our vertically integrated R&D and production capabilities play an important role in supporting strategic UK defence projects such as this.”

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