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Directed energy (DE)

Definition Directed energy (DE) refers to a type of military operation utilizing energy-focused technologies to target or deter adversaries. This can involve the use of lasers, microwaves, or particle beams as weapons. It provides a means for precision, speed-of-light engagement capability and damage limitation, and can be used in both defensive and offensive maneuvers. Key […]


Directed energy (DE) refers to a type of military operation utilizing energy-focused technologies to target or deter adversaries. This can involve the use of lasers, microwaves, or particle beams as weapons. It provides a means for precision, speed-of-light engagement capability and damage limitation, and can be used in both defensive and offensive maneuvers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Directed Energy (DE) weapons convert chemical or electrical energy into a focused beam of energy, such as electromagnetic radiation or particles, that can incapacitate or destroy enemy equipment, facilities, or personnel.
  2. DE technologies offer precision accuracy, causing minimal collateral damage, and provide an alternative to traditional destructive weapons. Such systems include lasers, high power microwaves, and other forms of electromagnetic radiation.
  3. The military applications of Directed Energy systems are vast and versatile, from missile defense to electronic warfare. Despite its immense potential, there are technical hurdles and policy considerations affecting their use in warfare today.


Directed Energy (DE) is significant in military operations because it represents potential advancements in weaponry for defensive and offensive strategies.

DE systems harness types of energy such as lasers, microwaves, or particle beams, delivering precise and tailored effects against a wide range of targets, from drones and missiles to infrastructure and personnel, at the speed of light.

This capability enables rapid, accurate response and can significantly reduce collateral damage.

Additionally, DE systems are efficient in terms of cost-per-shot, and offer virtually unlimited magazines, depending on power availability.

The promise of DE technologies represents a potential breakthrough in military capabilities, safety measures, and strategic dominance and resilience.


Directed Energy (DE) refers to a range of military operations that involve the use of concentrated electromagnetic energy to damage or destroy enemy equipment, facilities, or personnel. The primary purpose of deploying directed energy is to offer a powerful, precise, and rapid response to varying threats, eliminating the need for traditional explosives or bullet-based weaponry. DE systems offer the ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously without reloading, providing a more sustainable and lasting tactical advantage.

This technology enables an instantaneous and highly accurate response, critical in time-sensitive or high-risk operations. DE weaponry plays an integral role in both defensive and offensive military tactics. On a defensive level, directed energy can intercept and neutralize incoming targets, such as missiles and drones, posing a threat to military installments or ships.

In offensive measures, DE weapons come to play to destroy enemy combatants and assets. The potential for limited collateral damage, owing to the precision of these weapons, makes them a more desirable choice over traditional firearms. Directed energy systems also comprise non-lethal weapons meant to incapacitate enemy personnel temporarily without causing permanent harm.

Examples of Directed energy (DE)

Active Denial System (ADS): Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Active Denial System (ADS) is a directed-energy weapon, used for crowd control. It works by firing a high-powered beam of high-frequency microwaves towards a target, which causes a burning sensation in the skin of the target and forces them to move away from the area.

Laser Weapon System (LaWS): The U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is another example of directed-energy military operation. Deployed on USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, it is used to target incoming threats such as enemy drones and small boats. The high-energy laser can burn through the targets and disable or destroy them.

High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD): The U.S. Army’s High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) is a directed-energy weapon mounted on a vehicle to provide mobile defense against rockets, artillery, mortars, and drones. It utilizes a powerful laser to shoot down incoming threats.

FAQs about Directed Energy (DE) in Military Operations

What is Directed Energy (DE)?

Directed Energy (DE) is the use of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or subatomic particles on a specific target. This includes lasers, microwaves, particle beams, and sound energy.

What are the applications of DE in military operations?

DE weapons can have several military applications due to their speed, precision, scalability, and potential for both lethal and non-lethal effects. They can be used for missile defense, denial and deception operations, countering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), counter-surface and counter-swarm operations, among other uses.

What are the advantages of DE weapons?

DE weapons have several advantages over traditional kinetic weapons. They are instantaneous, precise, and have an almost unlimited ‘magazine’. They can also operate in different weather conditions and can engage multiple targets simultaneously.

Are there any limitations or challenges with DE weapons?

Yes, while DE weapons have clear benefits, there are also several challenges. These include the need for large quantities of power, cooling systems, atmospheric effects, system size and weight constraints, and legal and policy concerns pertaining to their use and development.

What is the future perspective for DE in military operations?

The future for DE weapons is promising with continuous advancements in technology and increasing interest from military organizations worldwide. They are expected to play critical roles in future warfare, providing new capabilities for both defensive and offensive operations.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • High Energy Laser (HEL): These are lasers that are strong enough to engage targets such as missiles, vehicles, and buildings. Sometimes used in directed energy applications.
  • Non-lethal weapons (NLW): Directed energy can be applied in non-lethal weapons for crowd control or incapacitation. They usually operate by heating the surface of targets.
  • Counter-electronics: Some directed energy systems can be used effectively to disable electronic components, hence the term counter-electronics.
  • RF Directed Energy Weapons (RF DEWs): These are directed energy weapons that use high-powered microwave energy.
  • Active Denial System (ADS): This is a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon developed by the U.S. military, designed for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control.

Sources for More Information

  • U.S. Department of Energy – This official government website offers a wealth of information on various energy technologies, including directed energy.
  • U.S. Department of Defense – The Department of Defense is the leading authority on military operations, including the use of directed energy in modern warfare.
  • RAND Corporation – A nonprofit think tank that often researches and discusses military technology and tactics, including directed energy.
  • Lockheed Martin – A major defense contractor that works on directed energy projects, providing a unique industry perspective.

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