The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has released a report that predicts an interesting future for directed energy weapons in the US military. The ARFL has assembled a group of experts to predict the future of these weapons, and they said they could be used by the US military through 2060. Their prediction includes space-based weapons systems and “force fields”. The authors claim that the world has reached “a tipping point” where Directed Energy is a critical component of successful military operations.
Directed energy (DE) weapons have long been an area of focus for Hollywood. So much so that even talking about these weapons can generate images of Iron Man’s “repulsing rays” embedded in the palms of his gloves, or Optimus Prime’s “Ion Blaster”.
Still, those shown in the movies are nothing more than imaginary weapons. In the real world, a DE weapon damages its target with highly focused energy, using lasers, microwaves, and particle beams. Most countries have incorporated some form of directed energy weapon into their arsenals, but none are even remotely close to what science fiction movies would like us to believe.
Given the wide scope for development and improvement, the US Air Force published a study titled “Directed Energy Futures 2060” based on three parameters:
1) Explore future directed energy scenarios and their implications for national and military power.
2) Understand the advantages and disadvantages of these scenarios for the US.
3) Determine the actions needed to implement a strategy for military directed energy needs.
An interesting prediction in the report was about “force fields” that could be created by a sufficiently large fleet of high-altitude Direct Energy weapons systems to provide a “missile defense umbrella.”
The ongoing arms race between countries for drones and hypersonic weapons has already taken many to the next level. The report notes that “at least 31 nations” now have DE weapons for unmanned airborne system (c-UAS) missions as base defense. However, the authors conclude that these concepts require significant technical advancement by 2060 to reach their full potential.