HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Mar. 17, 2014) -- As the Army and other services continue the mission of protecting forward deployed U.S. and allied Warfighters, one solution to counter the threat of rockets, artillery, mortars/missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles is directed energy.

More than 300 members of the Directed Energy Professional Society, or DEPS, gathered in Huntsville to attend the 16th Annual Directed Energy Symposium held at the Westin Hotel at Bridge Street Town Centre March 10-14.

"Directed Energy Applications are considered 'game changing' technologies by the Army," said Richard De Fatta, director of the Emerging Technology Directorate within the Technical Center of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. "When fielded they will provide cost and operationally effective alternatives to conventional missiles, guns, and similar systems. A directed energy 'bullet' is generated almost entirely by electrical energy and does not require resupply except fuel to generate electricity.

"Cost per kill, measured in the tens of thousands to millions with conventional gun and missile systems, is typically measured in cents or couple of dollars," he added. "Target effects or 'dial-a-defeat' can normally be varied in accordance with the individual Warfighter's requirements and will be extremely accurate."

De Fatta is the principal program director and scientific advisor for future technology research programs in areas such as high energy lasers, high power microwave and interceptors at SMDC.

He presented a briefing to the symposium attendees focusing on high energy laser technology development and demonstrations, including the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator program administered by the USASMDC/ARSTRAT Technical Center.

At DEPS, De Fatta discussed HEL MD and how after completing the integration, testing and calibration of a 10 kilowatt laser, the HEL MD team conducted a series of tests from Nov. 18 through Dec. 10 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. During the testing the HEL MD successfully engaged more than 85 mortar rounds, sufficiently tracking for aimpoint and possible engagement. Of those mortar rounds, 69 were destroyed in flight. HEL MD also successfully engaged three unmanned aerial vehicles during the testing, damaging two and shooting down one of the "Outlaw" UAVs. During the testing against UAVs, there were more than two dozen UAV sorties flown with target boards as targets on the vehicles.

De Fatta discussed with the DEPS audience the HEL MD subsystems, the laser, the platform, beam control, command and control, thermal management and power that will lead the program from the current 10kw laser to a 50kw, and eventually a 100kw laser for the program.

"DEPS is a fully joint gathering of government and industry professionals that span the full range of technologists, system developers, and user representatives," De Fatta said. "This forum allows our personnel to interact with the complete body of folks in the directed energy functional area in a way that is not achievable elsewhere. We benefit from the interaction with our colleges across the services, OSD, and industry. Awareness of ongoing efforts, achievements and requirements allow us to both share our expertise and experience, and gain insight into the lessons learned of others."

Along with De Fatta, Dr. Mark L. Swinson, deputy director for Rapid Transition, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, and SMDC Technical Center personnel participated at DEPS. There were also several members of the Emerging Technology Directorate serving as session chairs and provided presentations addressing high energy laser subsystem development and prototype demonstration results and high power microwave efforts.

DEPS was founded in 1999 to foster research and development of directed energy technology for national defense and civil applications through professional communication and education. DEPS is recognized as the premier organization for exchanging information about and advocating research, development and application of directed energy. Each service has a primary role in supporting the DEPS Annual Symposium on a rotating basis and for 2014 that responsibility fell to the Army.

"DEPS is important to the DoD community because it provides various forums for the directed energy community to communicate with each other and to educate the larger DoD community on the emerging capabilities that DE can provide to the Warfighter," said John Wachs, a retired government employee and longtime DEPS member. "This exchange of information includes advances in high energy lasers and high power microwave technologies, the results of laboratory testing of HEL and HPM components, and the results of full scale demonstrations."

"The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command's Technical Center in Huntsville manages a large portion of the directed energy research and development within the Army, so it was very important to DEPS that the symposium be held in Huntsville to minimize the cost of Army attendance," added Wachs, one of the lead organizers to bring the symposium back to Huntsville.