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September 02, 2015
A Directed Energy (DE) weapon is one that engages targets with electromagnetic energy rather than the kinetic energy used in conventional weapons such as projectiles. Last month, Booz Allen Hamilton co- hosted a first–of-its kind DE Summit, bringing together the most comprehensive group of DE stakeholders ever in one place at one time. Leaders from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps joined with members of Congress and the U.S. defense industry to discuss the current DE research and testing, the drivers, and the challenges facing development progress.
Co-hosts Booz Allen Executive Vice President Joe Logue and Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, led the day’s agenda. All the participants acknowledged that DE technologies are at a tipping point, with Booz Allen Executive Vice President and panel moderator Trey Obering defining that the imperative is no longer, “can we do it?” but “how do make it operationally relevant?” Co-Chair of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI-2) noted that DE is “not the easiest thing to explain. It takes some time to wrap your head around the technology, and even longer to work through the doctrines.”
Directed energy weapons include a host of technologies, including high-energy lasers, high-power microwaves, and related radiofrequency technologies. These technologies offer the potential to provide cost-effective precision attack or enhanced point defense, in addition to flexible non-kinetic uses. DE weapons are well-suited to dealing with asymmetric challenges in addition to more complex potential roles in killing ballistic missiles in their boost phase when they are most vulnerable and have few viable countermeasures. Harnessing DE in modern weapons systems has become a reality that promises to change the way we engage our battlespace and protect our borders.
Lt. Gen. William H. Etter, Commander 1st Air Force, and Commander, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command emphasized the need to field DE weapons that have the capability to “dial-up or dial-down” their lethality to meet various challenges. "We in the DoD are concerned about collateral damage anywhere in the world, especially here in the Homeland," he said.
The Honorable Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics warned that without appropriate investments in potential leap-ahead technologies such as DE the DoD would be at risk of falling behind its competitors. There’s a need to push ideas from the demonstration phase into the field more rapidly and to lower operational costs. Senior military and civilian leaders representing the Air Force and Navy, the two service branches taking the lead in development of DE capabilities, emphasized the need to work closely with industry to achieve those results. That is what’s needed to convince Congress of the long-term value of DE technology investments in a period of budget constraints.
For nearly two decades, Booz Allen scientists and engineers have been involved in many successful DE projects, from conceptual design phase to technology demonstration. Our staff experts bring to bear real-world insights on defining the practicalities and feasibilities of DE. In addition, Booz Allen’s expertise and experience with the acquisition process, both for traditional and DE systems, has informed a strategy that aims to minimize the disruption accompanying the insertion and integration process. Booz Allen looks at the DE challenges holistically and objectively, addressing the complex interplay of people, process and technology.
“We have the engineering and consultative skill sets to enable a smooth transition of DE from a disruptive technology to a critical element of the warfighter’s capabilities,” says Joe Shepherd, Booz Allen’s Principal leading the growth of the firm’s DE business. “Hosting this summit enabled critical dialogue among the key stakeholders and highlighted Booz Allen’s leadership and commitment to helping our DoD clients, and our country not only be ready, but be out ahead of our adversaries in technologies that will have the potential to become the new face of warfare and defense.”
To learn more about Booz Allen's work on DE click here.