Missile maker MBDA has been selected to demonstrate a British capability to field laser-directed weapons, industry sources familiar with the program told Defense News.

The company was selected last week and will be confirmed as the winning bidder in the next few days, so long as there are no protests from rival companies.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed there will be an announcement 'soon' but wouldn't comment on who had won the work.

A spokesman for the UK arm of MBDA declined to comment on whether it's bid team, known as UK Dragonfire, had been successful.

MBDA leads a consortium of companies including  BAE Systems, Leonardo, Marshall Defence and Aerospace and Qinetiq to develop and build a solid state high power demonstrator weapon as part of the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory's directed energy weapons project.

The value of the contract is not known at this stage.

A Babcock/Raytheon consortium, Thales UK, Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall are thought to have been among the rival bidders, although there may have been others as well.

Qinetiq laser technology was reckoned to have been part of at least three bids, ensuring a key British sovereign technology capability is maintained in a field dominated recently by US and German advances.

The British developed a laser dazzle capability as far back as 1982 and although it was deployed to the South Atlantic during the Falklands war, it was never used. Lack of MoD laser funding prompted Thales to tell reporters in 2013 it was looking overseas for funding to continue long-term work it had been doing in the sector.

MBDA's German arm has been doing extensive work in the laser field for a while now but the technology is not thought to be part of the UK Dragonfire bid.

In a briefing with reporters in May, Raytheon executives said the first test firings could take place on land as early as 2018, followed later by firings at sea.

The demonstration work could eventually lead to the Royal Navy and other services fielding a directed energy weapon.

The US Navy fielded a laser weapon system for testing onboard USS Ponce during a deployment to the Arabian Gulf starting 2014.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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