What are the Directed Energy Weapons?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 9, 2022, 5:37

Directed Energy Weapons are focused, highly energetic, ranged weapons that damage targets, including lasers, microwaves, sound beams, and particle beams. This technology includes weapons that can target personnel, missiles, optical devices, and vehicles.

Directed Energy Weapons are an umbrella term used to signify all technologies that can produce a "beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or sub-atomic particles". A Directed-energy weapon is a DE-based system to destroy, damage, and disable all adversary facilities, personnel, and equipment.

Directed Energy Weapons are emerging military weapons yet to be deployed but are significant for future warfare.

Advantages of Directed Energy Weapons

  1. Directed Energy Weapons are very precise in making the correct attack on their targets, fast-moving objects. This makes them a preferred choice when compared to conventional munitions.
  2. Some other advantages of DEWs are unlimited magazines, multiple target area coverage, and noise-free operation. They are extensively installed in land vehicles, military ships, aircraft, and even crewless vehicles.
  3. DEWs can also function as non-attributable, nonlethal millimetre and microwave devices that can effectively disorient personnel and disable and incapacitate enemies' electronic targets.
  4. DEWs can create a safe effect that can happen to the skin when exposed for too long to the sun's ultraviolet rays within short wavelengths. They can be developed for nonlethal dispersal or denial devices that can go unnoticed by human eyes.
  5. It is important to mention here that the long-range capabilities of Directed Energy Weapons limit the users' chances of assessing on-the-ground conditions.
  6. Countries like China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, and Pakistan have developed military-grade directed-energy weapons. Iran and Turkey claim that Directed Energy Weapons are in active service.

Types of Directed Energy Weapons

Here, it is important to discuss the types of Directed Energy Weapon. They are -

  1. Microwave
    • Active Denial System
    • Vigilant Eagle
    • Bofors HPM Blackout
    • EL/M-2080 Green Pine|EL/M-2080 Green P
    • Active Electronically Scanned Array
    • Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project
  2. Laser
  3. Particle Beam
  4. Plasma
  5. Sonic
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Impact of Directed Energy Weapons

Due to the lack of transparent and appropriate testing of these weapons, their short and long term medical impacts are serious concerns. What has been found by testing on volunteer military targets is that such weapons can cause blisters and skin burns or can even cause prolonged pain.

The electromagnetic waves penetrate beyond the dermal layer and can cause skin burn and dermal damage. The prototype of this kind of weapon was for the very first time tested and deployed in Afghanistan in the year 2010. But, later, it was recalled.

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What is India's Response to Directed Energy Weapons?

India's Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) made announcements in 2020 about its plans to develop Directed Energy Weapons by using high-energy lasers and microwaves. The continuing military confrontation between India and China and eastern Ladakh has further intensified the need for India to develop its own DEWs.

But India's directed-energy weapon technological developments are still in their nascent stage and are way behind the powerful systems of the US, Russia, and China.

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FAQs on Directed Energy Weapons

Q.1. What are the types of Directed Energy Weapons?

Some examples of types of Directed Energy Weapons are Microwave, Laser, Particle-Beam, Plasma, and Sonic.

Q.2. Are Directed Energy Weapons a Reality or a Thing of the Future?

The Directed Energy Weapons are in their experimental stages with zero incidents of their military application by any country in the world.

Q.3. What is China's position concerning Directed Energy Weapons?

There have been claims made by a research team in Southwestern China about the development of strong microwave devices with ultra-high-output, and this can be a cause of concern about the Directed Energy Weapons for the West and India.

Q.4. What are the effects of Directed Energy Weapons?

Directed Energy Weapons can penetrate up to 0.5 mm into the body, accessing the skin beyond the dermal layer, causing serious burns and dermal damage. Face and eyes are at maximum risk of injury.

Q.5. When was Directed Energy Weapons tested first?

The prototype of Directed Energy Weapons was for the very first time tested and deployed in Afghanistan in the year 2010 but was later recalled.