Directed Energy Weapons Are About to Go Mainstream

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Directed Energy Weapons Are About to Go Mainstream

The first generation of battle-ready laser weapons are now in the latter stages of development.  And combat deployment could begin as soon as 2023.

Within a decade, they’ll be installed on ground vehicles, ships and aircraft.  Targets will range from missiles to drones, to aircraft, to ships, to IEDs, to artillery shells, and even to small boats loaded with explosives. 

The laser was invented 60 years ago.  And, when it comes to speed and ammunition costs, nothing comes close to laser weapons technology.  The problem has been to develop weapons with the range, precision, lethality, and reliability needed for real-world combat applications. 

A whole new generation of field-deployed, directed-energy weapons are coming, and they’ll address three different sets of challenges traditionally resolved by the Army, Air Force and Navy.  To understand this important aspect of our national security and the related business opportunities, let’s start by examining ground-based weapons applications for the Army.

Over the past two decades, each of the major barriers to range, precision, lethality, and reliability has come crashing down.  According to Breaking Defense,the Army has recently poured more than 50 percent of its “science and technology budget” into directed energy weapons.  And this is finally enabling, workable weapons systems to emerge. The United States plans seize the opportunity to harness these in order to achieve dominance in directed energy weapons, for the foreseeable future.

One of the most versatile prototype systems is called ATHENA, which stands for Advanced Test High ENergyAsset.  During tests last year at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, this 30-kilowatt weapon destroyed five mid-sized Outlaw military drones.  In earlier tests, the contractor, Lockheed Martin, proved that ATHENA could also destroy military trucks by burning through their hoods and engines from a mile away.

There are many advantages to such laser weapons. 

  1. Unlimited ammunition.  As long as there is electricity, ATHENA has an unlimited magazine. 
  2. Speed.  Laser weapons like ATHENA are lethal at the speed of light.  Once a plane, drone, artillery shell or missile, becomes visible, the laser can be hit it, immediately. 
  3. Silence, invisibility and instant lethality. Three characteristics, which are very handy for stealth and surprise on the battlefield.  And,
  4. 360-degree aiming...

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