According to the US Department of Defense’s Joint Publication 3–13 Electronic Warfare, directed energy (DE) is described as an
umbrella term covering technologies that produce a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or subatomic particles. A DE weapon is a system using DE primarily as a direct means to disable, damage or destroy adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel. DE warfare is military action involving the use of DE weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction of adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel, or to determine, exploit, reduce, or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) through damage, destruction, and disruption
Directed energy is a modernization priority for the US Department of Defense with the goal of maturing technology to deployable forms.
DE weapons include the following:
- high-energy lasers
- high-power radio frequency devices
- high-power microwave devices, and
- charged particle beam weapons
- neutral particle beam weapons
Directed energy weapons have the potential to defend against several types of threats with great precision and minimal collateral damage, at minimal cost per engagement. High Energy Laser (HEL) technology development and advancements in hardware are making laser weapon systems increasingly viable.
The following are companies and research entities involved in the development of DE weapon systems:
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- Raytheon Technologies
- General Atomics
- Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
While primarily discussed in relation to weapon systems, DE solutions also have a range of commercial applications, such as industrial cutting and welding and infrastructure protection.