Dragonworks facility to put UK at forefront of laser weapons development

A laser directed energy weapon will be the first project to be undertaken at Dragonworks, a new UK facility dedicated to the development and testing of advanced laser technology.


Located at Qinetiq’s headquarters in Farnborough, the new facility will serve as a test bed for all technologies associated with high-energy lasers for military or commercial applications.

It includes a clean-room and the UK’s only Reflective Hazard Assessment Tool (RHAT), which is designed to examine how laser energy is reflected from different surfaces. According to Qinetiq, further additions to the building will create an environment where customers can conduct full-scale testing of high-energy lasers.

Steve Wadey, Qinetiq CEO, said: “Dragonworks introduces a brand new sovereign capability, which will significantly enhance the UK’s ability to operate and characterise high energy lasers.

“It will help our customers to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with this disruptive technology, informing their critical strategic and tactical decisions.

“We are investing in this asset as part of our strategy to modernise the UK’s test and evaluation services.”

The first project to be undertaken at Dragonworks will be the assembly and testing of the laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) currently in development by the UK’s Dragonfire consortium, led by MBDA.

Components will arrive in early 2018, when Qinetiq will begin building the weapon’s laser source. Over the following months, the laser source will undergo a process of evaluation and adjustment before being integrated with a beam director developed by Leonardo.

The project will culminate in operation at full-power under test conditions inside the facility in summer 2018, before it is transported to MOD Shoeburyness for long-range outdoor trials later in the year.

Data collected using the RHAT will inform the safety case for these and future trials.

Peter Cooper, the project technical authority in Dstl, which manages the Dragonfire contract on behalf of the UK MOD, said: “This facility is a key step in delivering the Dragonfire project and reflects the continuing UK MOD investment, supported and enabled by industry funding, amounting to tens of millions of pounds in UK industrial skills and capabilities."