low-cost, high-efficiency weapon systems such as lasers and microwaves
The dictionary meaning of ‘directed energy’ is energy generated using properties in which the intensity such as light or electromagnetic waves changes depending on the direction. For example, lasers or microwaves can be referred to as ‘directional energy weapon’ that concentrates this directional energy in one place and increases the output.
in the meantime, weapons that utilized directional energy were imaginary weapons that would appear in sci-fi movies, such as laser cannons. in recent years, however, with advances in technology, it has evolved into a weapon that can be encountered in reality, and attention has been drawn.
have the advantage of pushing the limits of gunpowder-based weapons
why do you want to develop directional energy as a weapon? this is because it has the ability to overcome the limitations of conventional gunpowder-based weapons. gunpowder-based weapons have a number of challenges in terms of carrying and managing ammunition by weight and volume.
however, weapons such as laser guns are the opposite of directional energy. you don’t need to carry or store ammunition, and you can shoot large amounts of fire with just one charge without having to reload. the low operating cost makes it easy to operate, and the ability to continue operations is excellent.
it can also intercept enemy ballistic missiles at low altitudes, or mount them on satellites or drones to strike enemy aircraft or missiles. therefore, in the near future, laser weapons along with gunpowder-based weapons will be equipped with complimentary use.
this is not the only thing. laser cannons can aim at targets precisely and can be used to hit targets located over long distances because they can shoot ultra-long distances. it is still premature, but if it is smaller and lighter than it is today, it can be used not only for rifles but also for drones and robots.
the reason laser weapons can strike this long distance is because of their straightness, which allows them to move forward without being affected by gravity. gunpowder-based weapons have a “ballistic curve” due to gravity when they reach a certain distance after launch.
affordability is also one of the factors that shows that it needs to change from gunpowder-based weapons to directional energy weapons. compared to gunpowder-based weapons, which cost tens of dollars for a single launch, directional energy weapons cost only about $1 or less.
if laser-powered weapons are being developed with the goal of “destruction,” the goal is to “neutralize” enemy systems by using microwaves. to stop or break the system from working and prevent it from being used.
when the microwave reaches the enemy’s weapon system, a sudden high voltage occurs in various electronic components mounted inside, causing the chip or substrate to burn. the more advanced the weapon system, the more electronic components it is equipped with, so if these components stop working, of course, the weapon system will have problems.
in particular, microwaves have the advantage of having little effect on human life or harmful compounds, but only on electronic systems inside weapons and structures. for example, when attacking a chemical weapons factory, attacking with an existing gunpowder weapon can leak toxic chemicals into the air, but shooting microwaves will only shut down the plant, which can have the same effect.
of course, directional energy weapons do not have the advantages. in the case of laser guns, in weather conditions such as rain, snow, and fog, deviations can occur in terms of accuracy. since it is a weapon that utilizes the directionality of light, it is affected by environmental factors such as atmospheric conditions, so it suffers from changes in refractive index and scattering effects.
in the case of microwaves, the disadvantage is that the accuracy is reduced. due to the nature of electromagnetic waves, it is likely to destroy other systems around in addition to targets. for example, if an enemy fighter is flying and an ally’s fighter is close, firing microwaves can cause problems for allied fighters.
conduct a variety of field tests ahead of production deployment
As several countries are reviewing the use of directed energy weapons in practice, the UK’s Ministry of Defence recently signed a deal with global defense company Thales to introduce small laser guns.
According to a British ministry of defense announcement, small laser guns installed in combat gear and armored vehicles are introduced to strike drones that are being used for reconnaissance or self-destructing on the battlefield. The project is one of the “New Weapons Programmes” promoted by the UK Ministry of Defence.
field tests will be conducted in 2023, two years after the next two years, and during the three-year test period until 2025, the British navy and army plan to verify the practicality of laser cannons and their possible deployment.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THE WEAPON USING MICROWAVES IS THOR FROM THE U.S. AIR FORCE RESEARCH INSTITUTE. THOR, A WEAPON THAT USES POWERFUL MICROWAVES TO SHOOT DOWN DRONES, IS ALSO KNOWN TO BE CAPABLE OF SHOOTING DOWN DRONES OVER LONG DISTANCES.
in particular, missiles or laser guns can shoot down only one drone at a time when attacking it, but thor can crash it in an instant, even if the drone is swarming.