De­vel­op­ing Di­rected En­ergy Weapons

DEWS are the an­swer to the Sino-in­dian asym­me­try as they can ren­der all cur­rent nu­clear weapons and the de­liv­ery sys­tems worth­less—burn them off in sec­onds in­clud­ing mis­siles in the ini­tial up­ward boost phase of flight it­self

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

TO SAY THAT WEAPON­I­SA­TION of space is not tak­ing place would be deny­ing the ob­vi­ous. Ori­gins of In­dian mythol­ogy of Ma­hab­harata apart, China’s bid to play down its anti-satel­lite (ASAT) test of 2007 do not ob­fus­cate the fact. A host of coun­tries have fo­cused on re­search and devel­op­ment (R&D) in de­vel­op­ing di­rected en­ergy weapons (DEWs) through pri­mar­ily laser-based weapons and de­liv­ery sys­tems—land-, sea-, air- and space-based. DEWs in fact are the an­swer to to­day’s nu­clear weapons and their de­liv­ery sys­tems—the prover­bial ‘death ray’ trav­el­ling at the speed of light. The DEW emits en­ergy in the de­sired di­rec­tion, onto the de­sired tar­get (ef­fects of which may be lethal or non-lethal de­pend­ing on what the at­tacker wants), de­stroy­ing or dis­abling it with­out us­ing any pro­jec­tile. Not only will this be the next par­a­digm of war, they will likely be de­ployed in large num­bers by the year 2020. By then, even the prob­lem of plasma break­down in air caus­ing the laser to de-fo­cus and dis­perse en­ergy into the at­mos­phere, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing fog, smoke and dust, would have been over­come. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, laser weapons will have lim­it­less am­mu­ni­tion given suf­fi­cient power source. In ad­di­tion, their range will be much more as com­pared to bal­lis­tic weapons with favourable at­mo­spheric con­di­tions and power level.

In a test fir­ing dur­ing 2010, Raytheon’s ship-borne laser suc­cess­fully de­stroyed an un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cle (UAV). In an­other test in the US, the can­non aboard a ship at sea fired a rel­a­tively weak 15 kilo­watt laser beam dis­abling an en­emy ves­sel. The US Yal-1A Boe­ing air­craft-based laser sys­tem that gen­er­ates a laser beam hav­ing 1megawatt of power can kill en­emy air­craft at the speed of light. A one megawatt laser beam can burn through 20 feet of steel in a sin­gle sec­ond. Northrop Grum­man has devel­oped the truck-mounted laser. A laser as­sault ri­fle too has been de­vel- oped whose en­ergy out­put can be con­trolled—high-power for lethal out­comes or low power for non-lethal ef­fect. BAE Sys­tems and Boe­ing are in part­ner­ship to blend ki­netic and laser weapons onto naval plat­forms. The Rus­sian ASAT is MiG-31 based. Chi­nese pro­grammes are un­der wraps but un­doubt­edly be­ing vig­or­ously pur­sued.

In­dia too is look­ing into uses of laser tech­nol­ogy. The De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) iden­tify DEWs, along with space se­cu­rity, cy­ber se­cu­rity and hy­per­sonic ve­hi­cles as fu­ture projects. In­dia has been de­vel­op­ing the kilo am­pere lin­ear in­jec­tor (KALI) lin­ear elec­tron ac­cel­er­a­tor for some time. Cur­rently, it is not a laser weapon al­beit China thinks so since it can be pro­gressed into a high-pow­ered mi­crowave weapon. A laser daz­zler has been devel­oped that will im­pair vi­sion tem­po­rar­ily to con­trol un­ruly crowds. In ad­di­tion, DRDO’s Laser Sci­ence and Tech Cen­tre (LASTEC) is de­vel­op­ing Aditya, a ve­hi­cle-mounted gas dy­namic laser-based DEW sys­tem (as tech- nol­ogy demon­stra­tor)—a 25-kilo­watt laser sys­tem un­der devel­op­ment to hit a mis­sile in ter­mi­nal phase at a dis­tance of 5-7 km. The next step is to cre­ate solid state lasers which are very por­ta­ble and can be fit­ted on var­i­ous plat­forms. This is pro­jected to be achieved by 2020. The Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) Tech­nol­ogy Per­spec­tive and Ca­pa­bil­ity Roadmap iden­ti­fies DEWs and anti-satel­lite (ASAT) weapons as thrust ar­eas over next 15 years. In­dia has iden­ti­fied devel­op­ment of ASAT weapons for elec­tronic or phys­i­cal de­struc­tion of satel­lites in both low earth or­bit (2,000 km al­ti­tude above earth’s sur­face) and the higher geosyn­chronous or­bit in the long-term in­te­grated per­spec­tive plan (2012-27). DRDO is work­ing on 6,000 square kilo­me­tres ra­dius sys­tems in re­spect of exo-at­mo­spheric kill ve­hi­cles.

DEWs are the an­swer to the Sino-In­dian asym­me­try as they can ren­der all cur­rent nu­clear weapons and the de­liv­ery sys­tems worth­less—burn them off in sec­onds in­clud­ing mis­siles in the ini­tial up­ward boost phase of flight it­self. Un­doubt­edly, the vi­tal as­pect will be to have ac­cu­rate and ef­fec­tive radars to lo­cate and track en­emy mis­siles in­stan­ta­neously on launch and ac­ti­vate own DEWs to neu­tralise them. Such radars will es­sen­tially have to be space-based (mounted on satel­lites) as ground-based, ship-based and air­borne radar sys­tems with lim­ited range and ac­cu­racy have a lim­ited ca­pa­bil­ity to lo­cate and track such mis­siles. To say that space is only be­ing used for civil­ian and re­con­nais­sance pur­poses will be a mis­nomer for the sim­ple rea­son that coun­tries like the US, China and Rus­sia would al­ready be do­ing so be­cause of the dual us­age of such radars. Sim­i­larly, DEWs when mounted on satel­lites will be dif­fi­cult to de­tect un­less ac­tu­ally fired. Chi­nese mil­i­tary strat­egy of shock, de­cep­tion and sur­prise cou­pled with Chi­nese record of am­bi­gu­ity and de­ceit lends it­self to space weapon­i­sa­tion.

There is no rea­son why In­dia should not cater to such asym­me­try. Great na­tions must re­main com­mit­ted to lofty mo­ral prin­ci­ples and hu­mane val­ues, but one must un­der­stand that the power of prin­ci­ple can be most ef­fec­tively pur­sued when it is com­ple­mented by the prin­ci­ple of the rel­e­vant power of the times. Of­fi­cially, China may have pooh-poohed the Agni-V test but in­ter­nally it surely is very con­cerned that Bei­jing and fo­cal cen­tres of its eco­nomic progress are within In­dian mis­sile range. It is as­sumed that the next gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese as­sum­ing power in Bei­jing five years from now, is likely to be much more ag­gres­sive. How­ever, it would be pru­dent for them not to be so, least coun­tries so threat­ened get go­ing a strate­gic part­ner­ship (not nec­es­sar­ily al­liance) in de­vel­op­ing DEWs for col­lec­tive re­sponse. In any event, In­dia must leapfrog op­ti­mis­ing the laser, bear­ing in mind the Chi­nese pen­chant of not only ‘hu­man wave’ tac­tics on ground but also ‘mass mis­sile at­tacks’. Con­cur­rently, ac­tive de­nial sys­tems against DEW at­tacks too must be devel­oped ex­pe­di­tiously.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Northrop Grum­man

Northrop Grum­man’s joint high power solid state laser

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.