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Is Science Fiction holding us back?

SpaceWarfare-SWGMBBy Rory Colthurst, Conference Producer, Defence IQ

When I began investigating the state of the directed energy market for our Directed Energy Systems event, one thing that struck me from the outset is the inevitable comparisons to science-fiction. Something about laser beams and microwave weapons seems to strike a chord with our collective conscious, stirring up nostalgic memories of Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate …basically any TV show with “Star” in the title.

This raised an interesting question though – are these associations actually holding back the wider adoption of directed energy technology? After all, there’s a certain stigma in being seen to be chasing ‘a pipedream’ based on fantasy. Militaries are often portrayed as being highly conservative organisations, opposed to radical change. Helicopters were once sneered at, as were tanks before them – the same attitude can be seen throughout the history of warfare in fact! So is there any danger of this scepticism slowing down the rate of technological advance?

I posed this question to a number of people active in the directed energy field, and to a number of military officers as well. Their responses were unexpected, but it was fantastic to hear their enthusiasm for such a fascinating technology that’s full of potential.

The unanimous response was yes, militaries are conservative by nature but, if you demonstrate something works they will back you all the way. Of course, this is exactly what eventually happened in the case of helicopters and tanks – their utility was soon proven and their adoption was widespread, and today they are ubiquitous and still in demand.

Directed energy systems have been on the cusp of this breakthrough for some time, but it seems we’re finally seeing the years of effort coming to fruition. The U.S. Navy has the Maritime Laser Demonstrator deployed on the USS Ponce at this very moment, while Boeing & Rheinmetall also have functioning systems that are highly impressive. On the microwave side of things, Boeing again has made massive progress with the CHAMP while Diehl BGT continues to make advances with High Power Electro Magnetic technology. All of these companies and many more are going to be presenting the results of their latest tests at the annual Directed Energy Systems conference, taking place in London over the 28th-30th January 2014. If you’d like to learn more, then take a look at the brochure and the website before registering your place now, or contact our enquiries team at

In addition to this, we will also be exploring the potential misuse of directed energy. Yael Shahar from the Institute for Counter Terrorism will be leading a workshop examining possible scenarios and the defences available. This is not to be missed, so book now!

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