Directed Energy Weapons (Defense), 2021 Update – Thematic Research

Directed energy weapons (DEWs) are maturing quickly and transitioning towards widespread, practical and cost-effective field deployment. Many leading defense forces and companies have successfully tested their high energy laser and high power microwave weapons fitted on combat platforms, against UAVs and small boats for a few years. These weapons have finally reached the power levels and the effectiveness to allow them to be used on the battlefield. Combat platforms are expected to be equipped with DEWs as complimentary of conventional weapons by 2025. Directed energy weapons (DEWs) could provide several capabilities and advantages over traditional weapons due to their speed-of-light delivery, precision engagement, controlled/scalable effects, logistical benefits, and low cost per shot. Furthermore, DEWs are silent, offer plausible deniability, can travel immense distances relative to conventional weapons, and engage multiple targets. Consequently, these advantages will support the development of a wide spectrum of military equipment and capabilities.

Although DEW systems have the potential to be used for offensive purposes, currently, weapons development programs are mainly focused on defense systems.


DEW systems have started to be used alongside conventional weapons in combat areas, although they are not fully operational and there are still problems that need to be overcome. However, the operational potential of these weapons is compelling countries to review their defense concepts.

DEW has potential to be used in the destruction or neutralization of ballistic missiles, rockets, UAVs, swarm crafts, land mines and IEDs, neutralization of the enemy's electronic warfare capabilities, and temporary or permanent incapacitation of enemy troops or terrorist elements, protection of critical facilities, and air, sea and land vehicles and platforms as well as non-lethal applications such as crowd control or disabling machinery.

DEWs have immense potential to be revolutionary in the long future. The evidence indicates that directed-energy will soon become one of the most powerful technologies for success on the battlefield and will eventually replace many existing weaponry forms.

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Companies mentioned

BAE Systems, Boeing, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), Dynetics, Elbit Systems, Genasys, General Atomics (GA), Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, MBDA Holdings, nLIGHT, Northrop Grumman, Poly Technologies, Radiance Technologies, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Raytheon Technologies, Rheinmetall, Roketsan, Thales

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