The US will start large scale demonstrations of directed energy weapons within five years to counter ballistic and cruise missile threat in less expensive way.
Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall, the top US arms buyer said Tuesday that the funds for directed energy programs would remain steady at about $300 million a year for now.
He further added that the directed energy offers a less expensive way to counter ballistic and cruise missile threats than the currently used expensive interceptors.
Directed energy is referred to weapons that emit focused energy in the form of lasers, microwaves, electromagnetic radiation, radio waves, sound or particle beams.
Top armed forces officials and US lawmakers told an industry conference on Tuesday that the weapons are in various development stages and testing by the US Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army.
Lasers are already used to guide bombs to their target but the military is heading to use the lasers themselves as weapons. Such weapons could lower the cost of current weapons, speed up responses to enemy attacks and cut deaths of civilians in the battlefield, Etter and other officials added.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy was encouraged by testing of a laser deployed on the USS Ponce in the Gulf, which can destroy small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and can also be used as a telescope.
Mabus said the Navy was extending deployment of the laser on the Ponce, and using lessons learned to help produce a 100-150 kilowatt laser prototype for testing at sea in 2018 or sooner.
He said a new railgun that could hit targets 100 miles away would also be tested at sea next year. A railgun is an electrically powered electromagnetic projectile launcher.
He said the Navy would release a comprehensive road map for these sorts of weapons this fall and could initiate a full-scale acquisition program in fiscal 2018.
Major General Jerry Harris, vice commander of Air Combat Command said the Air Force developed a high-power microwave weapon that could disperse crowds without killing people by rapidly raising body temperature. This system could be put to use immediately on drones or other aircraft, he added.