Directed-energy weapons have been at the cutting edge of military research for over 40 years. The idea of directed-energy weapons that employ either laser, microwave, or particle beams was the driving force behind President Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative (=SDI)” in 1983. At the time, it was conceived as giving the US an advantage against the threat of Soviet ballistic missiles, by disabling these missiles in flight–a much better alternative to the “mutually-assured destruction” of a nuclear war.
Even though the SDI program was abandoned with the end of the Cold War, efforts continued to develop and employ directed-energy weapons–with laser-based weapons being the easiest alternative. Here are several clear advantages to such weapons:
- Speed and stealth: The “ammunition” travels silently, at the speed of light. This makes it effective even against high-speed targets.
- Range: A directed-energy laser weapon can have a range of up to 20 kilometers, depending on atmospheric conditions.
- Efficient: They can be deployed against several targets successively, after a certain amount of necessary “dwell time” until it is effective against each target.
- Economical: Once deployed, a directed-energy laser can be much cheaper “per shot” than conventional weaponry. Additionally, you are assured of firepower as long as you have a generator powering the laser.
At lower intensities, such devices can also be used as non-lethal weapons, to be utilized as a “long-distance taser”, or pulsed-energy projectile device, which can be used in riot control.