Science fiction-style beam weapons that can destroy targets with directed lasers or microwaves are the near-term future of advanced weaponry. According to the US Office of Naval Research, the beam weapons, mounted on military vehicles, "are capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focusing it on a target" causing damage that "degrades, neutralizes, defeats or destroys an adversarial capability." Zzzzzzap!
Despite facing developmental challenges, the US Pentagon views directed-energy weapons as critical to the National Defense Strategy, pouring a billion dollars annually for the last three years into their research and development. One big benefit is that they don't run out of ammunition, although seemingly battery life could be an issue.
From The Week:
[The U.S. Government Accountability Office] pointed out that the average military four-wheeled ATV "can now hold a high energy laser powerful enough to damage drones," something that vehicles of the past were unable to do.
And while this development remains a tightly guarded military secret, there have been some indications that directed-energy weapons are already being deployed in certain capacities. During a recent press conference, Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder was asked if directed-energy weapons were being used to defend U.S. bases in the Middle East.
"I don't want to go into the specific capabilities that we're using to protect our forces, other than to say we have a wide variety which does include directed energy capabilities," Ryder replied. When asked for clarification, Ryder said there was "a wide variety in our inventory of the U.S. military that includes directed energy weapons."