Department of Defense Directed Energy Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress


Figure 1. Illustrative Effects of HELs vs HPM Weapons



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Figure 1. Illustrative Effects of HELs vs HPM Weapons
Source: CRS image based on an image in Mark Gunzinger and Chris Dougherty, Changing the Game The Promise
of Directed-Energy Weapons, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, April 19, 2021, pat https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/CSBA_ChangingTheGame_ereader.pdf.
Note: Units of measurement are illustrative.
Selected Defense-Wide Directed Energy Programs
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DOD directed energy programs are coordinated by the Principal Director for Directed Energy within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering
(OUSD[R&E]). The Principal Director for Directed Energy is additionally responsible for development and oversight of the Directed Energy Roadmap, which articulates DOD’s objective of achieving dominance in DE military applications in every mission and domain where they give advantage The roadmap outlines DOD’s plan to increase power levels of HEL weapons from around 150 kilowatt (kW, as is currently feasible, to around 300 kW by FY, 500 kW by FY, and 1 megawatt (MW) by FY For reference, although no consensus exists ready.
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See, for example, Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office, Active Denial System FAQs https://jnlwp.defense.gov/About/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Active-Denial-System-FAQs/.
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This section was written by Kelley M. Sayler, CRS Analyst in Advanced Technology and Global Security.
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Dr. Jim Trebes, Advancing High Energy Laser Weapon Capabilities What is OUSD (RE) Doing Presentation at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), October 21, 2020.
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Kilowatts and megawatts are units of power. One kilowatt is equal to one thousand watts, while one megawatt is


Department of Defense Directed Energy Weapons Background and Issues for Congress

Congressional Research Service
3 regarding the precise power level that would be needed to neutralize different target sets, DOD briefing documents (see Figure 2) suggest that a laser of approximately 100 kW could engage
UASs, rockets, artillery, and mortars, whereas a laser of around 300 kW could additionally engage small boats and cruise missiles flying in certain profiles (i.e., flying across—rather than at—the laser Lasers of 1 MW could potentially neutralize ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons.
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