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Defense Science Board Task Force on Directed Energy Weapons
DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD WASHINGTON DC
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Directed energy continues to offer promise as a transformational game changer as the Department of Defense DOD encounters new asymmetric and disruptive threats, while facing increasingly sophisticated traditional challenges. Yet years of investment have not resulted in any currently operational high-energy laser capability. In addition, the single high-energy laser program of record, the Airborne Laser ABL for boost phase missile defense, continues to experience delays and potential budget reductions. There is a strong belief in the directed energy community, and in segments of the warfighter and force-provider communities, that highpower microwave HPM offers capabilities in anti-sensor applications and as non-lethal weapons. Still, HPM advancement has been limited by uncertainty about its effects and effectiveness. Years of major investment in chemical lasers has produced megawatt-class systems that could have a wide range of applications. However, size, weight, and logistics issues limit them to integration on large platforms, such as the 747 used for the ABL program, or fixed ground applications such as the Ground-Based Laser for Space Control. As a consequence, interest in these systems and expectations of progress has significantly decreased. The current focus is on solid state lasers with the promise of providing for smaller, lighter systems with deep magazines. However, the current goal for solid state laser development would provide a power level more than an order of magnitude lower than current chemical lasers. While beam quality and other factors can compensate for some of the difference in power level, there is currently little investment in those aspects. Further, these cannot make up the delta in power of chemical vs. solid state lasers. The near-term projection for solid state lasers is a power level closer to two orders of magnitude below that of chemical lasers.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE