Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Directed Energy Projects Losing in Fight for Research Funding

On Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon’s courtyard earlier this month, the focus was on developing new air and ground-based weapons that would direct high-energy beams against a range of threats — from frying enemy roadside bombs to zapping ballistic missiles in the boost phase.
Despite the promise held out by industry proponents of lasers and high-power microwave bursts, military officials and senators from both sides of the aisle said that lack of funding was putting a crimp on the necessary research and testing for the new weapons under the constraints of the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“We’re on an unaffordable path” for research, said Adm. William E. Gortney, who was expected to retire this summer as head of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at an April 13 Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing on Ballistic Missiles Defense Policies and Programs.
During that same week in the Pentagon’s courtyard, industry and military laboratories had on display mockups and illustrations of their systems, from Boeing’s Strategic Laser Systems for missile defense to Leidos’ High Power Microwave (HPM) for ground-based Explosive Hazard Neutralization (EHN) meant to destroy roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDS).
The Leidos system, developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, was essentially a megawatt generator turbine mounted on a heavy truck and billed by Leidos as a “first of its kind solution to the standoff, pre-detonatiuon of explosive hazards.”
The system is designed for route clearance and convoy security more