The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has released a report that predicts an interesting future for Directed Energy weapons in the American military in the near future. The ARFL assembled a group of experts to predict the future of these weapons, and they have said that these can be tapped into the US military by 2060. Their forecast includes both space-based weapon 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 throws up images of either Iron Man's “repulsor rays”, built into 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 laser, microwaves, and particle beams. Most countries have incorporated some sort of Directed Energy weapons in their arsenals but none of them is even remotely close to what the sci-fi movies would like us to believe.
Given the wide room for development and improvement, the US Air Force published a study titled “Directed Energy Futures 2060" based on three parameters:
1) To explore the future scenarios of directed energy and their implications for national and military power.
2) To understand the advantages and disadvantages of these scenarios for the US.
3) To determine the actions required to implement a strategy for directed energy military needs.
One interesting prediction in the report was on “force fields,” which could be created by a sufficiently large fleet of high-altitude Directed Energy weapon systems to provide a “missile defense umbrella”.
The ongoing arms race among countries for drones and hypersonic weapons has already made many move to the next level. The report notes “at least 31 nations” today have DE weapons for counter unmanned airborne system (c-UAS) missions, such as base defence. However, the authors conclude that these concepts require significant technical advancement by 2060 to achieve their full potential.