The US is currently the global leader in the development of directed energy weapons (DEWs) but faces threats from China and Russia who are also developing these systems, says GlobalData. The data and analytics company notes that China and Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons will likely result in increased investments in advanced technology in the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA).

The NDAA is currently being considered by US Congress, with funding being discussed for DEWs, advanced sensor technology, artificial intelligence (AI), microwave systems and cyber technology.

GlobalData’s report, ‘Directed Energy Weapons (Defense), 2021 Update – Thematic Research’, reveals that these systems are expected to be widespread by 2025, with the proliferation of hypersonic weapons being a major driver of the DEW market.

William Davies, Associate Analyst at GlobalData, said “DEWs could provide several capabilities and advantages over traditional weapons due to their speed-of-light delivery, precision engagement, controlled/scalable effects, logistical benefits, and low cost per shot. Furthermore, DEWs are silent, offer plausible deniability, can travel immense distances relative to conventional weapons, and engage multiple targets. Consequently, these advantages will support the development of a wide spectrum of military equipment and capabilities.”

Hypersonic weapons funding has long been a priority for Congress, with annual defence reports showing funding for these weapons increased across a variety of programs. While US adversaries are advancing their hypersonic technology capabilities, Congress is prioritising hypersonic defence. The US is allocating $4.7 billion for hypersonic research in 2023, with only $447 million allocated for hypersonic defence, according to a congressional report.

Existing missile sites in the US will likely require radar upgrades in order to accurately track hypersonic threats from its adversaries. Naval vessels and military bases will also need upgrades to provide them with the capabilities to counter emerging threats. The spending report from Congress specifically highlights the Patriot system as needing upgrades to avoid obsolescence, as well as Aegis equipped vessels.

Davies adds: “The congressional report shows a tension in hypersonic spending, with lawmakers clearly frustrated about inaction on hypersonic missile defence. The Ukraine crisis has compounded this concern, with Russia’s supposed utilisation of hypersonic weapons.”

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