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Published on : Jun 01, 2016

Directed energy weapons, the technology which are still in their infancy will revolutionize many aspects of modern warfare. Though nascent, it has the capability to permit both defensive and offensive techniques against a large spectrum of targets. Prior to the development of non-nuclear capabilities for warfare tactical options did not exist. Nuclear weapons such as High-altitude Electro Magnetic Pulse were the only major capability in this field.

Directed energy weapons are systems that predominantly utilize direct energy for disabling or destroying facilities, enemy equipment, and personnel. These weapons may be lethal or non-lethal, which depends on their application areas. DEW are of two types: microwaves and lasers both of which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. While high-energy lasers direct highly-focused lower-powered energy beams either using chemical fuel or electric power, high-powered microwaves emit electrically charged microwave beams at a wide angle locking on the target.

The development prospects of directed energy weapon systems is promising in the future. The increasing demand for modernization of armed troops for crowd control and to be prepared against terrorist activities will exhibit demand for these systems globally. Moreover, government initiatives for modernizing armed forces’ capabilities in the form of advanced weaponry will influence growth of this market. Countries such as the U.K., Israel, Germany, the U.S., France, China, and Russia are presently making heavy investments in the development of directed energy weapons.
 
The utilization of directed energy weapons have operational difficulties as well. The beam quality needed is 10 times more than that needed for industrial lasers as targets are far away. Atmospheric conditions also affect the capabilities of these weapons, which if unfavorable can cause adverse effect on the weapon’s ability to track and destroy the target. The use of these weapons is challenged by funding as well. Directed energy weapons compete with other established modernization initiatives for the betterment of warfare capabilities that have large constituencies. Another major challenge for directed energy weapons is crossing the ‘valley of death’, wherein spending on basic and applied research to reach the prototype phase fades as compared to the cost incurred in operating DEW systems.