Department of Defense (DOD) defines a directed-energy weapon this way: „DE is an umbrella term covering technologies that produce a beam of concentrated EM energy or atomic or subatomic particles.“ It continues. „A DE weapon is a system using DE primarily as a direct means to 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 EMS thought damage, destruction, and disruption.“
The two basic types of DEWs include lasers and microwaves. Microwaves and lasers are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum. They‘re made of the same electromagnetic energy which consists of light and radio waves.
The energy can be explained using either wavelength or frequency. The shorter the wavelength of any energy field within the spectrum, the higher its frequency is. Toward the low end of the spectrum, there are low-frequency radio waves, which are thousands of kilometers long. And at the other and of the spectrum are light waves, which can be a fraction of an atom in size.
For ease of identification, groups of consecutive frequencies within the spectrum are divided into ranges. The frequencies within these ranges may overlap, which makes determining which range a frequency belongs in more difficult. Because lasers have a shorter wavelength than microwaves, they vibrate at a a higher frequency. Lasers and microwaves are merely different aspects of the exact same energy. The only difference between them is their frequency.
Another consideration is power. A high-powered microwave (HPM) and microwave oven both operate on the same frequency/wavelength. The only difference between them is the power level. Similarly, a laser pen and a high-powered laser have the same frequency, but the power level of a high-powered laser is much greater.
The concept of lasers, microwaves, and other types of DEWs using the exact same energy field, but at different frequencies, will help clarify how a single weapon can be used to exploit different frequencies of energy to produce microwave, laser, and other effects. This feature makes them rheostatic (scalable or tunable)
Microwave weapons consist of basically two major technologies. First are the millimeter wave devices which can be focused on a target at great distances and produce a burning sensation. An example of this is the Active Denial System (ADS). The second is the electromagnetic bomb (e-bomb), which can destroy electronic circuitry, communications networks, and harm organic matter at a distance, with a non-nuclear electromagnetic explosion (pulse).
Lasers consist of two basic groups. Low-energy lasers which can be used to disrupt vision, and high-powered lasers which can be used on people and material. So, both lasers and HPM can be used for counter personnel as well as counter material purposes.
DEWs are subject to diffraction, which is basically the reduction of focused power caused by the dispersal of their energy in the atmosphere. The shorter the wavelength, the less diffraction occurs.
Laser wavelengths are about 10000 times smaller than microwaves. Therefore, they are more suitable for accuracy at long distances, because they diffract 10000 times less. Diffraction can be used to the advantage of the operator. For instance, if a large area needed to be irradiated, high-powered microwaves could accomplish this, such as the e-bomb.
DEWs offer the Following Capabilities
- They have pinpoint accuracy
- They offer a low cost per use and maintenance.
- They have a virtually unlimited magazine capacity.
- They are simple to track, aim and shoot with sophisticated sensors.
- They are less lethal if tuned properly.
- They can operate in all weather conditions.
- They can engage multiple targets.
- They limit collateral damage.
- Their energy travels at the speed of light.
- Their energy can pass through walls at distances of hundreds of meters or even miles.
- They are silent and offer plausible deniability of their use.