Pentagon technology chief Michael Griffin said April 17 that he wants to field a megawatt-class, directed energy (DE) device in space by the late 2020s to protect the United States against hostile long-range missiles.

And “within a few years,” he wants to have a 100-kilowatt-class laser that can be deployed on an Army Stryker vehicle and a “several-hundred-kilowatt directed energy capability” that can be installed for defensive purposes on an Air Force tanker, Griffin testified before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). 

Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (DoD photo)
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (DoD photo)

Griffin said the United States is not currently on a path to achieve those outcomes anytime soon because “we are not leveraging our technical advantage in directed energy weapons.” But Griffin believes the Department of Defense can make such systems a reality by stepping up its DE work.

“These things are within our grasp if we focus our efforts,” he said. “They absolutely are within our grasp.”

Griffin, who testified at a hearing on promoting DoD innovation, made his comments in response to a question from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the HASC’s strategic forces panel. Rogers indicated that he liked Griffin’s answer.

“I want what you just described, so get after it,” Rogers said.

Griffin agreed with Rogers that DoD’s DE efforts are spread across too many agencies.

“My mission is to go forward and unify our directed energy development across the department,” Griffin said.

Griffin has been an outspoken advocate for several emerging technologies, including DE, since becoming undersecretary of defense for research and engineering two months ago.

In March, Griffin said that lasers, which have been the subject of several high-profile demonstrations, deserve continued funding but that other DE approaches, such as high-power microwaves and neutral particle beam systems, also hold promise in defeating difficult targets and should undergo further development (Defense Daily, March 21).