Directed energy weapons could revolutionize warfare

Directed energy weapons (DEWs) are maturing quickly and transitioning towards widespread, practical and cost-effective field deployment. If successfully developed and deployed, DEWs have immense potential to be revolutionary in the long-term, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The US currently leads the development of DEWs worldwide. The US military doubled its spending on DEWs from FY17 to FY19, from $535m to $1.1bn. Other countries that are also investing in the development of DEWs include China and India, as well as European countries such as Russia. On the other hand, in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America region, indigenous initiatives for the development of DEWs are minimal. In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that has continuously worked in association with the US to make significant progress in the DEWs sector.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Directed Energy Weapons (Defense) – Thematic Research’, states that the growing investment trend is being witnessed across modern armed forces and will continue over the next decade to drive more investment in research and development of DEWs. Currently focused on defensive functions such as protection of critical facilities, and military vehicles and platforms against missiles, rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and boats, DEWs have other largely unexplored use cases that could be a game changer in the near future.

Captain Nurettin Sevi, Turkish Navy, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “While DEWs are currently focused on defensive functions, and continue to have huge potential in this area, they could also provide several capabilities and advantages over traditional weapons because of their speed-of-light delivery, precision engagement, controlled/scalable effects, logistical benefits and low-cost per shot.

“DEWs have recently started to be used alongside existing kinetic weapons in combat areas. They have immense potential to be a game-changer in the near future, as well as revolutionary in the long term. However, armed forces and defense industries still need to address some technical challenges when developing these cutting-edge weapons. For example, laser weapons effectiveness decreases because of atmospheric absorption, scattering, turbulence and thermal blooming.

“Nonetheless, recent developments indicate that along with artificial intelligence (AI), hypersonics and drones, developing combat-capable DEWs will be a crucial differentiator between military forces in the 2020s.”

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