US Army eyeing ways to pare down competing directed energy efforts

14 May 2019

A Stryker with the 5 kW Mobile Experimental High Energy Laser, mounted on the vehicle’s rear, during the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, in April 2017. Source: DVIDS

For decades, the US Military has been researching ways to field directed energy weapons on ships, ground vehicles, and aircraft to little avail. Pentagon leaders, once again, think they are close to overcoming some of the hurdles that have hindered past efforts, and the US Army wants to rein in the competing efforts and consolidate funding to ensure success this time.

Bruce Jette, the army's assistant secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, recently detailed the service's plans to "find", "herd", and "cull" directed energy efforts across the services and various agencies.

"As we set up [the army's rapid capability office], I established specific efforts to frankly find all of the cats [find the competing directed energy efforts]. Everybody is out there working on something they call directed energy and I'm trying to figure out what that really means and what they're really doing," Jette told members of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee earlier this month. "We think we know where most of the cats are, but not all of them; we are [trying] to herd them in."

Once the service establishes those efforts, it will look at paring them back.

"We want to cull the cats down to those that will be productive as we move forward [and learn]," Jette later told reporters, adding that there's simply not enough dollars for the army to compete with the air force, navy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Instead, the services and DARPA need to find a way to "leverage each other's efforts" to find the best solutions.

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