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Army Directed Energy Strategy

Friday, August 20, 2021

What is it?

U.S. Army’s Directed Energy strategy instructs the Army to begin fielding Directed Energy (DE) weapon systems as part of its transformation to a Multi-Domain capable force. DE weapons offer a significant defensive capability against Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS); rotary- and fixed-wing threats; and rocket, artillery, and mortar (RAM) threats.

The execution of this strategy requires coordinated efforts across Army and Joint stakeholders, including the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), the Army Futures Command (AFC), and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.

What are the current and past efforts of the Army?

The Army is leveraging proven technologies developed in the science and technology (S&T) community in rapidly prototyping Directed Energy efforts.

As part of its modernization strategy, the Army is developing a variety of DE weapons, which include both lasers and high-power microwaves. AFC and RCCTO developed a DE strategy to field prototypes to operational units starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. In support, the RCCTO is working the following efforts:

  • DE Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD): a 50kW-class laser to protect Divisions and Brigade Combat Teams from UAS, rotary-wing aircraft, and RAM threats.
  • Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL): a 300kW-class laser that will protect fixed and semi-fixed sites from stressing UAS; rotary and fixed-wing aircraft; and RAM threats.
  • IFPC-High Power Microwave (HPM) intended for Counter-UAS, particularly groups and swarms; paired with IFPC-HEL as part of a layered defense to protect fixed and semi-fixed sites.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned?

The Army plans to:

  • Deliver a DE M-SHORAD prototype platoon in FY22
  • Team with Joint services to utilize the High Energy Laser Scaling Initiative (HELSI) contract of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, execute an IFPC-HEL tech demonstration in FY22 and deliver a prototype platoon in FY24
  • Partner with the Air Force and in coordination with the Joint Counter-small UAS Office (JCO), deliver an IFPC-HPM prototype platoon in FY24

The Army will continue DE S&T in areas of Lethality, Improving Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) and Extending Effective Range as these prototyping efforts transition to the Program of Record.

Why is this important to the Army?

DE weapons significantly contribute to the Army’s execution of Multi-Domain Operations and offer a strategic tool in the fight against low-cost threats, such as drones, found on the modern battlefield.


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Focus Quote for the Day

The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield. The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan. … It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in Soldiers’ hands.

— Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition and who oversees the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office

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