US Naval Operational Head expresses concern
Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of US Naval Operations, said developing systems powered by high-energy lasers or high-power microwaves to destroy such threats is currently a top priority for the US Navy. “From a defensive point of view, we are focusing on the threat,” Gilday said during an event at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday. We are not ignoring it. Gilday noted that adversaries such as Russia and China have made great strides in hypersonic weapons. This is a matter of significant concern. Both Russia and China are developing their hypersonic capabilities and will soon deploy them to defend the region.
Why is hypersonic missile dangerous?
Hypersonic missiles travel at five times the speed of sound or even faster. As such, they pose a unique challenge to American defensive systems. They fly much faster than conventional missiles. What’s more, they don’t fly on predictable trajectories like ballistic missiles, making them more difficult to detect and intercept. Russia used its hypersonic Kinzel missile in the Ukraine war, while China added to America’s troubles last year by testing a hypersonic glide vehicle.
See how Direct Energy Weapon works in this video
How Direct Energy Weapon Works
Direct energy systems use laser or microwave emitters to destroy another system or disrupt its electronics. Direct Energy Weapons are a potential alternative to hypersonic weapons defense. However, it has not yet been tried in the field of warfare. In such a situation, the usefulness of laser weapons or energy systems is still questionable. Direct Energy Weapon is primarily considered a defensive weapon. However, it can also be mounted on fighter aircraft and used for attack. Direct energy weapons consist of a high energy laser, high power radio frequency or microwave device.
Laser weapons are already deployed on two US warships
The US Navy deployed Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS laser system on the USS Prebble this month. Helios is an Integrated Optical-Dazzler and Surveillance System with a high energy system. The US is working with companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell Aerospace to develop more such systems. In 2014, the US Navy successfully tested and deployed a laser weapons system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. The system was capable of damaging drones, small aircraft and small boats. Last year the Navy tested a more advanced laser system on the USS Portland.