By Steven Aftergood
U.S. Army efforts to develop directed energy weapons — such as lasers and microwave weapons — are surveyed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.
Such weapons are probably years away from actual deployment by the Army, if indeed they ever become practical options.
“While DE weapons offer a variety of advantages over conventional kinetic weapons including precision, low cost per shot, and scalable effects, there are also some basic constraints such as beam attenuation, limited range, and an inability to be employed against non-line-of-sight targets which will need to be addressed in order to make these weapons effective across the entire spectrum of combat operations,” the CRS report said.
The status of some directed energy programs is obscured by secrecy, CRS said. “The classified nature of most of DOD’s HPM [high-power microwave] programs… makes public and academic examination of these programs problematic.”
The first DoD laser weapon ever to be approved for operational use was deployed aboard the USS Ponce (now decommissioned), according to the U.S. Navy.
See U.S. Army Weapons-Related Directed Energy (DE) Programs: Background and Potential Issues for Congress by Andrew Feickert, February 7, 2018.
Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.
Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, February 8, 2018
Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy, February 8, 2018
Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention, February 7, 2018
Rwanda: In Brief, February 7, 2018
The 10-20-30 Plan and Persistent Poverty Counties, February 8, 2018
Medicare Trigger, February 8, 2018
Introduction to U.S. Economy: The Business Cycle and Growth, CRS In Focus, December 13, 2017
Steven Aftergood directs the FAS Project on Government Secrecy. The Project works to reduce the scope of national security secrecy and to promote public access to government information.
He writes Secrecy News, which reports on new developments in secrecy policy and provides direct access to significant official records that are otherwise unavailable or hard to find.
In 1997, Mr. Aftergood was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency which led to the declassification and publication of the total intelligence budget for the first time in fifty years ($26.6 billion in FY 1997). In 2006, he won a FOIA lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office for release of unclassified budget records.
Mr. Aftergood is an electrical engineer by training (B.Sc., UCLA, 1977). He joined the FAS staff in 1989. From 1992-1998, he served on the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council.