Directed Energy Weapons – C.N. Ghosh, Senior Fellow


Scientists knew for many years that either a coherent monochromatic light collimated beam; a beam of charged particles or neutral energy particles, can carry potentially destructive amounts of energy, capable under certain circumstances of melting or cracking metal. Effective range could be many thousands of kilometers. An United Nations protocol signed during their session from September 25 to October 13, 1995 banned use or transfer of blinding Laser weapons Yet there are reports appearing that the advanced nations are engaged in serious research work to develop Laser and Particle beam weapons.. Revolution in Military Affairs is on the anvil and it may be coming through the potential use of these Directed Energy Weapons. Such extraordinary kill mechanisms of future weapon systems raise a lot of questions in the military mind as well as about its implications.

Considering the capabilities of laser, United Nations decided to prevent its use against human beings and a protocol1 was signed to limit the use of laser blinding weapons. As it stands, NATO nations are bound by this protocol and hopefully will restrict their use of laser weapons honouring the code of conduct dictated by the United Nations. These nations are to use laser against electro-optical sensors. But the development process in this direction belies all hopes of the United Nations. Laser weapons have already been dubbed as inhumane. Yet, the development of these weapons is progressing unabated. Certain defence analysts have already opined that the concept of nuclear weapons is as outdated as that of bows and arrows. Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) would replace the nuclear monsters soon enough and take the centerstage, probably proving the legendary HG Wells to be correct. In his book, The War of the Worlds, Wells talked about the invading Martians with heat ray guns. These ray guns of H G Wells are chillingly similar to the real laser weapons of today. At that time, DEW may have been the prerogative of comics and movies. But the superpowers of the pre- Cold War era took it up on themselves to develop these super killers. Clandestine research development went ahead under a strict veil of secrecy. Reports appearing in various magazines bring out to a large extent the general facts about the state of these weapons and the state of their development and the goal. This does not indicate in any way that the advanced nations are ready to subscribe to the United Nations protocol regarding DEW and their future use.

Concept of the DEW may have originated as early as in 212 BC in Greece, when Archimedes used polished mirrors to direct sun-light on the sails of Roman ships while defending the city of Syracuse. It was not until 1890 that HG Wells resurrected this concept in his book The War of the Worlds. And taking a leaf out of history, on May 23, 1983, Ronald Reagan the US President urged the development of a system that could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before these could reach US soil2 or that of the US allies. He copied the idea directly from the star wars.. Enough funding was promised despite loud protests from various quarters. Subsequently, a report appeared in the IDR August 2000 issue that the DEW were well on their way towards actual deployment3.