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The current developments and continued advancement in technology are leading to greater possibilities in weaponry, for instance, the development or the introduction of Direct Energy Weapons (DEWs). DEW is a system which primarily uses direct energy for damaging or destroying the adversary facilities, equipment, and personnel (Davis, 2015).
As of currently, the Directed Energy Weapons market, in a global scope is expected to witness a major growth from the current $8.12 billion, latest recorded in 2016, to outstanding $41.97 billion for the years 2023 (Reuters, 2017). The increase in the use of these weapons is much attributed to the rising demands for non-lethal deterrents as well as the ever-growing needs of using naval armaments within the naval forces worldwide. However, restrictions on the market growth could be attributed to the strict industry regulations, development costs and absence of testing facilities.
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Plausible/Documented Uses of DEWs
Some of the likely uses have been documented in the military, more so using DE weapons, devices as well as other countermeasures in directly damaging the adversary personnel, facilities, determining, exploiting, reducing and preventing the hostile uses of EMS through destruction, damage, and disruption (Davis, 2015). Hence, in the military, a reasonable application should be on deterrence or as a means of counterattack. Mostly, the two basic types of the DEWs are the microwaves and lasers, which are found within the electromagnetic spectrum, but of different frequencies.
Although the DEWs are currently being debated as solutions to combats, they have the possibility of providing the US military with the extra flexibility in tailoring the response to various threats, but there is the necessity to do considerable work before deploying this kind or type of technology. For instance, the US Pentagon currently perceives that DEWs are considered legal under the international law although their use is being questioned by the human rights groups since they believe that there is will be an inhumane use of DEWs (Kochens & Gudgel, 2016). Therefore, the reasonable use of DEWs should be subject to following the right or proper protocol, as well as relying on research and development to support the use of these technologies.
One of the applications of DEWs in defense and warfare is the e-bomb as a power source or the Explosively Pumped Flux Compression Generator (EPFCG) that uses chemical explosives in compressing the electrically charged coil (Kochens & Gudgel, 2016). From the explosion, a target device can be destroyed. On the other hand, when linked with a microwave generator, EPFCG can produce ultrashort but intense microwave bursts which depending on the height of the blast, shield of the target electronics or the microwave frequency, the effect can be felt in a broader range, even several of hundred meters away. Other documented and reasonable uses of DEWs include mechanized and armed units moving through a specific town, and as anti-missile laser shield protects them, they can clear all the buildings of the snipers or the entire enemy troops through an active denial system, and apply electro-lasers in stunning them before taking hostages or prisoners (Kochens & Gudgel, 2016). During the attack, the military unit can be using the HPM weapons in rendering the communications of the enemies useless. In the course of the cold wars, the Soviet Union is suspected to have used the weapons in China. However, the Iraq War saw extensive use of electromagnetic weapons as the USA employed the use of very high power microwaves, meant to destroy or disrupt the electronic systems in Iraq and even for crowd control (Davis, 2015).
DEWs could be reasonably used in controlling and containing riots. For example, the focused energy from the millimeter waveband can cause a burning sensation which will force an individual to flee a specific area. One of such developments is the Active Denial Systems or the ADS as non-lethal anti-personnel DEW, which is currently under development (Kochens & Gudgel, 2016). The burning sensation increases until the target individuals move out of the beamed area; hence, useful in controlling riots on the streets.
As of currently, the inhumane and harmful effects of DEW on people is being debated, especially how they can have detrimental effects on human body. For instance, millimeter waveband energy has the possibility of penetrating the skin, although on shallow depths, and heating the tissues underneath thereby leading to a burning sensation on the skin, but does not have severe or damaging effects on the tissue (Kochens & Gudgel, 2016). However, severe impacts have not been reported although there are concerns that wildfires like the significant California fire could have been attributed to the DEWs. The recent California fires have been suspected to be as a result of testing DEWs, since the US military may have been tested ATHENA laser weapon with the ability to destroy all the enemy threats in seconds (O’Leary, 2017).
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- Davis, S. D. (2015). Controlled warfare: how directed-energy weapons will enable the US Military to fight effectively in an urban environment while minimizing collateral damage. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 26(1), 49-71.
- Kochens, A. & Gudgel, A. (2016, April). The viability of directed-energy weapons.
- Reuters, (2017, July). Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) market size, share, report, analysis, trends & forecast to 2023.
- O’Leary, R. (2017, Oct). What if Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) are the real cause for the California fires