Responding to lawmakers' questions about how close the Army is to developing offensive and defensive directed-energy weapons, Mary J. Miller responded: "I believe we're very close."
Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, and other experts testified before the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Feb. 24. Miller's topic was the Army's Science and Technology, or S&T, Program for fiscal year 2017.
The Army's S&T effort is committed to pursuing high-energy lasers, she said. That effort has been used in an analysis of alternatives for the Indirect Fire Protection Capability program of record.
Now, that effort has been "aligned to transition into a program of record in the fiscal 2023 timeframe," she said. It's already planned and funded.
"Why that long?" she asked rhetorically.
Because it's being done in a "step-wise demonstration of capability," she said. "We have to make sure the lasers work and do the full set of scopes against the threats we project. And those threats include the counter-rockets, counter-artillery and counter-mortar as well as [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and cruise missile threats."
Miller explained that the Army wants to understand the lasers' full capabilities "before we offer it to a Soldier."
Operators need to trust what lasers can do, she added.
"Lasers have been promised for a long time, but they've never held up and delivered what was asked for, so the operators are rightfully skeptical," she pointed out. That's why the Army is taking lasers out into operational environments and testing them.
In the meantime, "there will be steps along the way where we spin off lesser capable laser systems that can do good things on smaller platforms. Those will come out soon," she concluded.