DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPONS (DEWs)
12, Aug 2019
Prelims level : Science & Technology- Defence Infrastructure Mains level : GS-III- Science and Technology - developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology
- Context- Directed energy weapons or DEWs are among the next bunch of military technologies that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on.
What is Directed Energy Weapons?
- A directed-energy weapon (DEW) is a ranged weapon that damages its target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves and particle beams.
- Potential applications of this technology include weapons that target personnel, missiles, vehicles, and optical devices
DRDOs take on Directed Energy Weapons:
- DEWs would play a major role in future warfare.
- DEWs are extremely important today. The world is moving towards them.
- In the country too, DRDO is doing a lot of experiments.
- DRDO have been working in this area for the past three to four years to develop 10kW and 20kW [weapons].
Directed energy weapons could have several Main Advantages over conventional weaponry:
- Direct energy weapons can be used discreetly; radiation above and below the visible spectrum is invisible and does not generate sound.
- Light is only very slightly altered by gravity, giving it an almost perfectly flat trajectory.
- It is also practically immune to both windage and Coriolis force. This makes aim much more precise and extends the range to line-of-sight, limited only by beam diffraction and spread, and absorption or scattering by intervening atmospheric contents.
- Lasers travel at light-speed and have near infinite range and therefore, are suitable for use in space warfare.
- Laser weapons potentially eliminate many logistical problems in terms of ammunition supply, as long as there is enough energy to power it the laser ammunition supply is assured.
- Depending on several operational factors, Directed Energy Weapons may be cheaper to operate than conventional weapons in certain contexts.
Significance of Laser based or Microwave Based high-power DEWs
- Laser based or microwave based high-power DEWs can quietly disable enemy drones or missiles temporarily or permanently without leaving physical debris.
- In contrast, the ASAT or anti-satellite missile that the DRDO tested on March 27, killed an orbiting Indian target satellite and left hundreds of small pieces as debris for a few months.
Problems with laser weapons:
- Laser beams begin to cause plasma breakdown in the atmosphere at energy densities of around one megajoule per cubic centimetre.
- This effect, called “blooming,” causes the laser to defocus and disperse energy into the surrounding air.
- Blooming can be more severe if there is fog, smoke, or dust in the air.