Laser-based weapons are demonstrating their viability in counter-RAM and counter-UAV applications; high-power RF systems are finding a niche in non-lethal uses.
According to the U.S. Army field manual “Electronic Warfare in Operations” (FM3-36, Feb. 2009) directed energy refers to technologies “that produce a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or subatomic particles.” Research into directed energy systems is being conducted on a global basis and has focused on laser and high-power RF technologies.
Key drivers for the use of laser-based weapons include the relatively low efficiency, high operational cost, and debris associated with conventional air defense systems. However, the development of laser weapons needs to be balanced against the requirements of specific applications in terms of range and power outputs capable with current laser technology. After years spent trying to develop futuristic systems with unrealistic performance specifications, companies working on the current generation of laserbased directed energy systems are taking a much more pragmatic approach. A common theme is the development of systems based on COTS fiber lasers in conjunction with coupling techniques to achieve practical power levels.