Leaping Beyond the Valley of Death

The Defense Department has an opportunity today to capitalize on the investments made in directed energy over the last four decades, but must focus on smaller, more obtainable weapons projects than in the past, said defense analysts with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Thursday. “Let’s not let perfect get in the way of the perfectly good,” said Mark Gunzinger, CSBA senior fellow who authored Changing the Game: The Promise of Directed-Energy Weapons, released April 19. Together with co-author Chris Dougherty, a CSBA research fellow, Gunzinger briefed the press at the think tank’s Washington, D.C., offices. Gunzinger thinks the Navy will be the first to “leap over the valley of death” with directed energy—moving from concept to real-world capability. He said the sea service has expressed “a lot of interest” in ship-based solid-state lasers to counter air and surface threats. The Air Force, he noted, “is very interested in putting a high-powered microwave weapon on a cruise missile so that it could hit scores of targets on each sortie.” Past failures and a reluctance, or inability, to invest in the upfront cost of moving DE programs into the acquisition realm are the biggest barriers to success, said Gunzinger. (See also High-Powered Microwave Weapon Tested.)