Michael D. Griffin, the US undersecretary of defence for research and engineering, spoke to senior leaders from the US government and defence industry to explore the impact of integrating directed energy capabilities into the US military.
Directed energy weapon systems employ lasers, microwaves and particle beams against enemy targets.
According to a press release received earlier today, Griffin has been in this arena since the 1980s and worked for the first three directors of the original US missile defence agency.
“Directed energy was then in our view an important part of our future portfolio because only directed energy could offer the kind of extended magazine, if you will, the extended range, speed of light delivery of the kill,” Griffin said. “It was the only way that in the long run you could see yourself competing with the threat and coming out on top.”
Directed energy has gone through a lot of evolutions over the years, Griffin added.
For many years, he said, the Congress and national policy fundamentally did not support the development of directed energy as a warfighting tool.
“So I think that has changed,” he said. “When I have discussions on the Hill, there is very much — a lean-forward posture now.”
China is flexing its muscles in the Indo-Pacific region and Russia is resurgent, Griffin told the audience.
“You don’t build islands in the South China Sea and militarized them with benign intentions,” he said. “You don’t get on TV and brag about your 4,000-mile intercontinental hypersonic nuclear delivery system with benign intentions.”
“We will not win in a man-to-man fight” Griffin said. “We have to have the technological leverage. That realisation was responsible for the creation of my office, to elevate the role of technology maturation and deployment and I believe it is responsible for the renewed interest in directed energy weapons.”
And, directed energy is more than big lasers, the undersecretary said. The undersecretary also reportedly asked his audience to consider directed energy systems such as high-power microwaves, different laser designs and particle beam weapons.
“Each of these systems has its own advantages and each has its own disadvantages,” he said. “We should not lose our way as we come out of the slough of despondence in directed energy into an environment that is more welcoming of our contributions. We should not lose our way with some of the other technologies that were pioneered in the ’80s and early-’90s and now stand available for renewed effort.”
In his capacity as undersecretary for research and engineering, Griffin said he is going to be very welcoming of other approaches that may not have had a lot of focus in recent years or decades.