Electronic warfare is becoming less a science of developing new technologies and more a process of sensor fusion, target networking and finding new ways to manipulate existing tools of the trade. A case in point--lasers and high-power microwave devices long have been eyed as competing directed-energy attack options. However, researchers are now combining the two to produce smaller, cheaper, more powerful, nonkinetic weapons. Electronic attack has taken a new path as well, shifting from covering enemy emissions with noise to finding, penetrating and exploiting enemy networks from low-power cell-phone networks to sophisticated air defense systems. The following articles explore some of those changes.
High-power microwave weapons may be on the verge of a high-speed turn toward the practical.
An advanced concept, pioneered by BAE Systems' researchers, uses light to multiply the speed and power at which HPM pulses--powerful enough to destroy enemy electronics--can be produced without the need for explosives or huge electrical generators.
Researchers predict leaps of 10-100 times in power output within two years. That advance could push the beam-weapon technology far beyond the 1-10-gigawatt limit of current tactical-size HPM devices. Long-standing industry estimates are that it would require a 100-gigawatt pulse for a few nanoseconds to disable a cruise missile at a useful range.
BAE Systems is not alone in the chase. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also building distributed array radars that can produce air-to-air and surface-to-air HPM weapons effects, contend longtime Pentagon radar specialists. In particular, the F-22, F-35, F/A-18E/F and newest F-15 radars are designed to accept modifications that would focus their beams to produce HPM energy spikes powerful enough to disable cruise, anti-aircraft, air-to-air and emitter-seeking missiles. Germany's Diehl is developing suitcase-size HPM devices that could be placed surreptitiously in a target building to damage electronics such as computers.
In addition, the U.S. military is giving classified briefings on the threat of HPM weapon technologies being developed in China and Russia. The Russians are believed to be developing radio-frequency microwave weapons for air defense, and the Chinese are developing HPM and electromagnetic pulse weapons for information warfare.
The Future is Now.
A bit more seriously, directed energy weapons have a pretty good chance of revolutionizing what we do in warfare. James also noted about the railgun that's progressing for the USN.