The Defense Department’s new undersecretary for research and engineering wants to put renewed emphasis on several types of directed energy weapons as the United States seeks to stay ahead of peer competitors.
Michael Griffin, who was installed in his position just a few weeks ago, worked on these technologies earlier in his career including when he was part of the strategic defense initiative during the Cold War. SDI envisioned using space-based lasers and other capabilities to shoot down enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Reenergizing directed energy efforts is a top priority, Griffin said. However, he isn’t just interested in “big lasers.”
“In the heyday of directed energy we were working on high-power microwaves, we were working on several flavors of lasers … and we were working on neutral particle beam weapons,” he noted March 21 during a speech at the annual Directed Energy Summit in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Each of these capabilities has its own advantages and disadvantages, he said. For example, high-power microwaves can effect an electronic kill. These systems and neutral particle beams have the advantage of being non-attributable and they don’t leave behind debris, he said.