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Directed-energy warfare (DEW)

Definition Directed-energy warfare (DEW) is a military operation that uses directed-energy weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction to a target or to confuse or disable the target’s performance. These weapons can emit energy in an aimed direction without the need for projectiles. They may use laser, microwaves or particle beams […]


Directed-energy warfare (DEW) is a military operation that uses directed-energy weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction to a target or to confuse or disable the target’s performance. These weapons can emit energy in an aimed direction without the need for projectiles. They may use laser, microwaves or particle beams to achieve their objectives.

Key Takeaways

  1. Directed-energy warfare (DEW) is a military operation term that refers to tactics involving the use of highly focused energy beams, including lasers, microwaves, or particle beams, to counter, incapacitate, or destroy enemy equipment and facilities.
  2. DEW offers various crucial advantages over conventional warfare like real-time precision targeting power, reduction in collateral damage, cost-effectiveness due to repeated use without the need for ammunition, and the ability to deliver an adjustable range of effects to the opponent.
  3. The development and deployment of DEW systems provide high-tech defense solutions and may fundamentally change the dynamics of warfare in the future, in both offensive and defensive maneuvers. However, they also invite legal, ethical, and safety concerns that need to be adequately addressed to ensure responsible utilization.


The term “Directed-Energy Warfare” (DEW) is significant in military operations as it refers to a technological advancement that boosts the effectiveness and efficiency of warfare strategy.

DEW involves the use of directed energy weapons which can include laser, microwaves, particle beams, and other forms of energy that can be directed and controlled to damage or destroy enemy equipment, facilities, or personnel.

Since these weapons operate at the speed of light, they offer instant impact, accuracy, and can be more cost-effective than conventional weaponry.

Moreover, they provide precision strike capabilities while reducing collateral damage, making them a game-changer in the landscape of modern warfare.


Directed-energy warfare (DEW) is a military operation that utilizes directed-energy weapons (DEWs), systems that emit highly focused energy to damage or disrupt enemy equipment, installations, or personnel. These narratives can take the form of lasers, microwaves, electromagnetic pulses, and particle beams.

DEW’s purpose in warfare is to offer a means of disabling enemy capabilities without causing extensive collateral damage, thereby promoting precision, efficiency, and minimized risk of civilian casualties in military operations. DEW operations are typically used for purposes including but not limited to: missile defense, where high-energy lasers can be used to intercept and destroy missiles mid-flight; electronic warfare, where microwaves or EMPs can scramble or damage electronic systems; and as countermeasure systems in military aircraft to disable incoming missile attacks.

They can also serve as an effective tool for crowd control, with certain systems capable of creating sensations of intense heat without causing permanent injury. Thus, directed-energy warfare serves a wide range of purposes, from tactical to strategic, targeting both material and human threats in the battlefield.

This depicts the significance of DEW in modern warfare, which is characterized by its strong emphasis on technology and precision.

Examples of Directed-energy warfare (DEW)

Active Denial System (ADS): Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Active Denial System is a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon system that uses millimeter-wave beams to induce intolerable heating sensation on human skin from a distance. It is aimed at crowd control and potentially used during operations that require dispersing mass aggressions.

AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS): Used by the U.S. Navy, this laser-based directed-energy weapon has been designed to target and destroy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), small boats, and other threats. During a deployment aboard the USS Ponce, the weapon was used to successfully engage with UAVs and small boats.

Lockheed Martin’s Athena System: This is a prototype laser weapon system developed by Lockheed Martin which is designed to defeat a broad range of close-in, low value threats from drones to small boats at a tactical distance. Using directed energy, the system burns through the hull of an incoming boat or drone, neutralizing the threat.

Bonus: High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) The US Army developed this energy weapon system to offer close-range protection against threats like rockets, artillery, mortars, and drones. In tests, the HEL MD successfully engaged and destroyed these targets with high-energy laser firings.

Frequently Asked Questions about Directed-energy Warfare (DEW)

What is Directed-energy Warfare (DEW)?

Directed-energy Warfare (DEW) is a type of warfare that uses highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves and particle beams, to damage or destroy enemy equipment, facilities, and personnel.

How does Directed-energy Warfare (DEW) work?

DEW systems work by focusing a beam of energy onto a target. The energy can be extremely hot, causing the target to burn or melt, or it could interfere with electronic systems, disrupting their operations.

What are the main types of Directed-energy Weapons?

The main types of Directed-energy Weapons are lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beams. These can all be used to target various assets, whether they’re on land, sea, air, or in space.

What are the potential applications of DEW in warfare?

The potential applications of DEW in warfare are numerous. They can be used for missile defense, electronic warfare, and precision strikes against hostile targets. They can also act as a deterrent to hostile actions by demonstrating superior firepower.

What are the limitations of Directed-energy Warfare?

Like any technology, DEW has its limitations. It requires a significant amount of power to operate effectively, and atmospheric conditions can affect its performance. Additionally, countermeasures can be developed to mitigate the effects of these weapons.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • High Energy Lasers (HEL)
  • Active Denial System (ADS)
  • Radio Frequency Weapons (RFW)
  • Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
  • Directed Energy Weapons System (DEWS)

Sources for More Information

Sure, here are four reliable sources for more information about Directed-energy warfare (DEW):

  • RAND Corporation: RAND is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company.
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): DARPA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.
  • ScienceDirect: ScienceDirect is a leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters from more than 2,500 peer-reviewed journals and more than 11,000 books.
  • Federation of American Scientists (FAS): The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) provides science-based analysis of and solutions to protect against catastrophic threats to national and international security.

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