back to article Military test centre for frikkin' laser cannon opens in Hampshire

British miltech boffinry outfit Qinetiq has opened a testing centre named the Dragonworks for the building and tweaking of giant laser cannon. So named after the Dragonfire weapon which will be its first product, the Dragonworks is located near Farnborough, in the heart of the leafy Home Counties. The facility, which includes …

  1. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Pint

    You could easily fit that to a whale

    But could people please stop saying "hence why". 'Hence' makes the 'why' redundant.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Simpler still

      Just "That's why..."

      "Hence" is definitely getting to sound a bit medieval (or should I say "mediaeval"?) today. It has overtones of Sir Walter Scott.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Simpler still

        What, pray, is wrong with sounding a bit mediæval (FTFY)? Or Sir Walter Scott?

        Sounding mediæval is a sign of a broad education. Unless you're Rees-Moggie in which it merely shows that your sense of values hasn't evolved beyond the 18th Century.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Simpler still

          Sounding mediæval is a sign of a broad education.

          As does the use of ligatures...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Simpler still

            "As does the use of ligatures..."

            The Boston Strangler was well educated then?

      2. Truckle The Uncivil
        Devil

        Re: Simpler still

        @Arctech

        Get thee hence....

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "You could easily fit that to a whale"

      but needs to be a bit smaller for a shark :)

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        but needs to be a bit smaller for a shark :)

        And that, sir, is why we are simultaneously investing in DNA technology. Can't minimise the shark mounted laser weaponry enough using current technology? No problem! Just use bigger sharks.

        Nothing could go wrong. Nothing at all.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          A pity Megalodon is extinct

          It might have been the right fit.

          On second thoughts, it is perhaps a good thing that Megalodon went extinct. Even though they were probably deep ocean sharks, a predator with a mouth that fits six humans with room to spare could put people off bathing in the ocean.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        but needs to be a bit smaller for a shark :)

        Combine the two - hence 'whale shark'.

        Would give it some teeth too. Assuming that the target is out of the water..

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Perfect climate

    " reduced in effectiveness by rain, fog and mist" and fitted to warships whose engines don't work in hot weather.

    So we are limited to attacking countries with mildly pleasant benign weather.

    Soon Monoco will tremble before our mighty imperial navy.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Perfect climate

      "So we are limited to attacking countries with mildly pleasant benign weather."

      Until they work out a way to redirect the steam from the auxiliary boilers as an alternative to making smoke.

    2. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Perfect climate

      Well, it will be a perfect match for the F-35 which can't take off (or even be outdoors) in the rain. Not without a hoodie at least.

      In ancient and medieval times campaigning stopped in the winter due to unfavourable weather (and a general lack of food).

      Maybe getting back to that custom would be a good first step. Then it would merely remain to extend the "no fighting" season through the summer.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Perfect climate

        "In ancient and medieval times campaigning stopped in the winter due to unfavourable weather (and a general lack of food)."

        Confucius remarked that "In Spring and Autumn there are no righteous wars."

        Double meaning: because fighting in the planting and harvesting seasons is very bad for the economy, but Spring and Autumn was the name of the official Chinese history book.

        You have Confucius on your side.

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Perfect climate

          Thank you, Sir. Now I feel wholly vindicated!

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Perfect climate

        Then it would merely remain to extend the "no fighting" season through the summer.

        And wars would have to stop during a merge window because of the need to test updates.

        Perhaps the military aphorism of this century will be "never fight a land war with version 1.0"

      3. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: Perfect climate

        > "In ancient and medieval times campaigning stopped in the winter due to unfavourable weather (and a general lack of food)."

        Also in 2017, even the Afghan fighting season takes time out over winter and they love fighting.

    3. macjules Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Perfect climate

      We build a gigantic laser cannon, mount it on one of our 'Aircraft Carriers' (which have no aircraft to carry apart from the occasional Gypsy Moth) and use the second carrier as a fuel supply since they failed to install nuclear propulsion on either ship.

      The other, more sensible, option is that we train up 20 very angry Great White sharks and mount lasers on them.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perfect climate

      "So we are limited to attacking countries with mildly pleasant benign weather. Soon Monoco will tremble before our mighty imperial navy."

      Govt will be trying harder to keep rights in Gibraltar than they're currently fighting to keep rights for UK citizens then .....

    5. Def Silver badge

      Re: Perfect climate

      What it actually means is an effective counter measure will be a 80s-pop-video fog-machine, and possibly a glitter-ball to reflect any energy that manages to make it through the fog.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: Perfect climate

        Perhaps they aim to conquer only those regions with a perfect climate, and settle there.

        Maybe that is their cunning plan

      2. breakfast
        Coat

        Re: Perfect climate

        Little known history fact: The Romans actually had these weapons. That is why a) they conquered the Mediterranean so easily and b) they were eventually defeated by goths.

    6. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Perfect climate

      Yes, but thanks to global warming, laser weapons will be even be effective in Glasgow.

    7. John70

      Re: Perfect climate

      If they can make the weapon work in British weather, they'll be onto a winner.

  3. DJO Silver badge

    In a parallel development sheets of ablative corner reflectors are used to cover missiles.

    1. Seajay#

      That occurred to me too. Maybe it's fine because the enemy deciding to cover his crucial assets in the most high visibility materials possible would be a win for us even if we never fire the laser.

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    re. LDEW

    I wish they'd call it CREWS (Coherent Radiation Emission Weapons System).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re. LDEW

      I'm rooting for Coherent Radiation Armaments Project.

      This'll be another money sink. The Yanks and Ruskies are about five to ten years ahead of us, why waste money developing another version of sometimes effective weapon?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re. LDEW

        "why waste money developing another version of sometimes effective weapon?"

        A good reason would be to, for example, avoid buying into something like the USA's F-35B project with no real control or oversight available to the UK government, delays, ever-escalating costs (mostly going to US firms), and operational dependence on totally and utterly friendly and reliable foreign nations - such as Turkey for engine servicing, at the insistence of the USA.

        - after all, there's no really good laser weapon system yet in service which can do something conventional weapons can't so there isn't one you can just buy now. The Yanks are fielding one example of their apparently effective AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System but when the ship it's on is decommissioned next year, the laser's not being shifted to its replacement.

        A credible reason would be that the defence contractors involved in Dragonfire are good at lobbying the government and MOD.

        Take yer pick.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: re. LDEW

        "The Yanks and Ruskies are about five to ten years ahead of us, why waste money developing another version of sometimes effective weapon?"

        The UK is pretty good with original research and even building prototypes. What we are shit at is development and production of a final product. Weapons systems are not generally mass produced so we might possibly do ok with this.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    They need to design...

    a system for mounting these weapons on a variety of different vehicles.

    Maybe something known as the

    Standardised

    Hard-point for

    Armaments with

    Radiative

    Kilowatt

    Systems

    1. ChrB

      Re: They need to design...

      Precisely!

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: They need to design...

      This is Qinetiq/MoD we are talking about, right?

      Strategic

      Environment

      Aware

      Ballistic

      Armament

      Seaborne

      System

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Dragonstrike

    Dragonworks is located near Farnborough, in the heart of the leafyburny Home Counties.

    Obviously this is just a cover for a deeper, more secret aerial strike capability.

    1. israel_hands

      Re: Dragonstrike

      Hampshire is rarely considered part of the home counties, and certainly not the heart of them.

      Aside form that, the point that got me was the mention of reduced effectiveness due to water vapour. While lasers sound cool, they really work better in the absence of atmosphere*. The idea that ramping up the power behind it to compensate for foggy conditions is probably not the best. The only way to penetrate water vapour is for the beam to be powerful enough that it superheats it instantly. Which would take a lot of power and create massive amounts of steam which would a) add to the problem of beam decoherence and b) draw a very obvious straight line between the target and the weapon platform along the path of your supposedly invisible death-ray.

      At the end of the day, kinetics are simpler, more efficient and more effective. Yes, you could potentially build a laser powerful enough to punch a hole through battleship plate, but there are more than enough ways to do that already which are simpler, proven and already in production. If they want to spend money on researching better weapons I'd strongly suggest they look into coil guns. Using a strong magnetic pulse to accelerate a solid projectile is way more efficient than lasers and can, if you can get it efficient enough, provide benefits over chemical accelerants.

      * I'm not suggesting that lasers are particularly useful in space, either. I've read enough of Project Rho to understand that they're essentially a good way of cooking your crew with waste heat while doing very little damage to your target compared to the total energy output of your "weapon". The only practical use for them is to damage fragile sensory equipment but even then, it's probably cheaper to keep hurling chunks of metal until you either knock out something important or just wreck the target completely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Re: Dragonstrike

        You, boy! Yes, you! I'll have no stating of the bleeding obvious in my school! That's swearing at a master!

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Dragonstrike

        "Hampshire is rarely considered part of the home counties, and certainly not the heart of them."

        Something tells me you're not an estate agent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dragonstrike

          Perhaps he is an estate agent?

          Its like saying a townhouse in Swindon is in the middle of the Cotswolds...

      3. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Dragonstrike

        So the obvious solution is to use rail gun to shoot laser gun which in turns either shoots target with a laser or simply hits it.

      4. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Dragonstrike

        But, but, but... Flash Gordon!!!

        1. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: But, but, but... Flash Gordon!!!

          GORDON'S ALIVE?

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: But, but, but... Flash Gordon!!!

            Yes, Flash Gordon Broon.

            I assume you were referring to him?

      5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dragonstrike

        "While lasers sound cool, they really work better in the absence of atmosphere*"

        Maybe Reaction Engines are secretly a lot further on than we the public are lead to believe and HOTOL is being resurrected...

      6. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Dragonstrike

        > I'm not suggesting that lasers are particularly useful in space, either.

        Lasers do have one huge advantage over kinetic weapons of all kinds: The speed of light.

        In close combat it doesn't make a big difference, but over huge distances without dust or haze like you might find in space that advantage means that you can destroy any missile crawling towards you. Evasive maneuvers also get a lot more difficult when somebody shoots light beams at you.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Dragonstrike

      Deep cover for the 3rd runway protesters?

  7. Empire of the Pussycat

    no sharks?

    FAKE NEWS

    SAD

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: no sharks?

      I actually WAS wondering if the facility had a pool...

  8. Martin-73 Silver badge
    Joke

    Why is this needed

    We already have Scorpion Stare on every street corner ;)

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Given the incompatibility of laser beams and wet weather, I would have though this is a no-go. Maybe time to rethink about the MASER tech as I understand it's not affected by weather or maybe not as much.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Power...!

    I want to see the rain burn

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: More Power...!

      They experimented with blasting icebergs to pieces. I think it was to help shipping. It became apparent very quickly that icebergs can absorb exponentially more power than we can generate. I think fog will be a bit similar.

  11. Alan J. Wylie

    black paint

    several hundred gallons of black paint or alternatively several thousand Spın̈al Tap album covers.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: black paint

      It would be prudent for the operatives to ensure that they do not wear Red coloured clothing on days when this thing is test fired. As I have pointed it out here before, Star Trek (original series) crew members who wore red had a tendency to be vaporised

  12. Spacedinvader
    Happy

    "the complete weapon will then be shipped to the top secret MoD test ranges at Shoeburyness, just east of Southend in south Essex for full-power outdoor trials."

    FTFY

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Top secret MoD test ranges

      They wouldn't be the ones at Shoeburyness, New Ranges Sector Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea SS3 9SR by any chance would they?

      Around here. But you can't see into the buildings, so pretty secret then.

      1. Streaker

        Re: Top secret MoD test ranges

        Why is Cupids Country Club pinpointed in that link? Perhaps we should be told?

        S

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Top secret MoD test ranges

          "Why is Cupids Country Club pinpointed in that link? Perhaps we should be told?"

          YMMV based on search history. Mine shows Qinetix.

          Better link

          1. Commswonk Silver badge

            Re: Top secret MoD test ranges

            Better link

            Quite so; it also reveals the existence of "Pussy's Palace Cattery & Grooming Parlour" which sounds as though it might not be what it says on the tin...

            And so close to what is probably "a place within the meaning of the Act".

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Top secret MoD test ranges

              Ah yes, "A prohibited place within the yadda yadda". Got a few of them near work. Mainly defence munitions guys. Them wot make bangy things

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Top secret MoD test ranges

            Very nice. They even have their own train lines and the wonderfully named "Walkey Way" road

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Charming Sh*g

      Shoeburyness always makes me think of Ian Dury's Billericay Dickie ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-JIzWFfsPk

  13. Matthew Smith

    Black paint?

    White, surely, if you want to emit absorbed energy.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Black paint?

      "White, surely, if you want to emit absorbed energy."

      Anti-laser paint is black and ablative.

      I am told that at one time the stocks of NATO rifles were made of a material which, it turned out, emitted a toxic dose of gas if struck by a laser rangefinder. An ablative coating was developed which lacked this side effect. Of course periodic repainting is needed.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Black paint?

        Of course periodic repainting is needed.

        Probably not - after the first time it's hit by a laser rangefinder, the weapon owner is unlikely to be in a position to do any DIY. Which in fact makes one wonder about the whole premise - if someone has just got a fix on you, a whiff of toxic gas is likely to be the least of your worries.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Black paint? - Probably not - after the first time it's hit by a laser rangefinder

          Paint wears off with use. That's why things need periodic repainting. For once, I was actually being sensible. Hard to tell, I know.

      2. Grunt #1

        Re: Black paint?

        ..toxic dose of gas?

        The least of your troubles if you've been marked as a target.

  14. DanceMan
    Thumb Up

    Sub-head of the week!

    as above

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Light Emitting Weapon of Destruction - LEWD.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Coat

      PEW

      for Photon Emitting Weapon

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Pirate

      "Light Emitting Weapon of Destruction - LEWD."

      Or Light Emitting Weapon In Situ - LEWIS - I wonder what Mr Page would make of these

  16. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    So when we start asking for bids for the UK Death Star project ?

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "So when we start asking for bids for the UK Death Star project ?"

      Assuming it was built by US defense contractors with MOD input and started very long ago in a galaxy very far away, we'd just about now be requesting modifications because the current generation of Tie fighters were too heavy to take off from it.

  17. sysconfig

    Time to start developing defensive measures...

    ...like a giant mirror?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Time to start developing defensive measures...

      ..and fabulous sequinned uniforms for the armed forces

      1. Thoguht Silver badge

        Re: Time to start developing defensive measures...

        Sequinned uniforms? Strictly Battlefield, anyone?

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Time to start developing defensive measures...

        "..and fabulous sequinned uniforms for the armed forces"

        Not that bad an idea. Part of the logic behind having really impressive armies, battleships and so on is that the sensible ruler doesn't want them getting wrecked by having nasty people shoot at them. So, hopefully, fewer wars. It's part of why guerilla warfare is seen as so unfair. They don't have to worry about the uniform bills.

      3. John Miles

        Re: ..and fabulous sequinned uniforms for the armed forces

        Planning on sending the Pearly Kings and Queens in then (OK not sequins)

  18. Haku
    Coat

    Real Genius

    Won't be too long now before they put one in orbit for some clandestine assassinations.

    Either that or to make truck loads of popcorn....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British Range Estimating X-Ray Invisible Targeting ?

  20. Seajay#

    Usage

    For about 100 years naval gunfire has been able to fire further than the visible horizon. Replacing the main armament with something which can't possibly fire that far because it has to be line of sight and even in the best of conditions would be skimming the surface of the sea and therefore getting lots of deflection from the moisture gradient, spray, etc, makes no sense. Also, delivering enough energy at long range to do more than temporarily blind another ship is probably impossible. So that's probably not the use.

    Anti-air / anti-missile probably makes a lot more sense. They are closer or higher so the range and distortion is less of an issue. The amount of energy you need to deliver to a missile or aircraft to destroy it is much much less. They can't be made reflective or they lose their stealth. Extremely rapid tracking and extremely low time-of-flight is important, which plays to the strength of lasers. All in all most likely this is a CIWS replacement / augmentation. It could also do a great job of blinding enemy pilots at extremely long ranges. That's illegal but so long as you can make the argument that you were trying to burn him rather than blind him, it's all fine, history is written by the winners.

    Worrying about swarms of RIBs with explosives in is the terribly modern thing for the Navy at the moment, I suppose a laser would pop them in a highly satisfactory fashion too.

  21. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    It's called Dragonfire - so why isn't the test centre somewhere in Wales?

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