Path For Directed Energy Tricky, Stackley Says

Path For Directed Energy Tricky, Stackley Says

Mike McCarthy

Fielding directed energy weapons in the future remains a challenge for the Navy as it continues to develop a “roadmap” for bringing the technology to the warfighter and examining how it would operate on ships, the service’s acquisition chief said yesterday.

Sean Stackley, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told a gathering that a directed energy steering group established last December is exploring a plan to synchronize the development of directed energy with sustained investment, and creating a timeline to get it on platforms.

“By itself it will not get out of the lab,” Stackley said at an Office of Naval Research conference hosted by American Society of Naval Engineers that took place just outside Washington. “What we’ve got to do is marry up directed energy not merely with the threat, but with the platform that is going to take that capability to the fight.”

“There is not a neat, quick, simple matchup,” he added.

The ONR has been leading the Navy’s effort on directed energy weapons and oversees the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) program. Directed energy weapons like lasers are viewed by the Navy as an efficient way to fight future wars by reducing reliance on munitions that occupy space on ships and require restocking.

Stackley cautioned, however, that it will take some time before directed energy finds a role in the battlespace. He said the goal over the short term is to figure out how to pull it out of the lab and into the hands of the warfighter, and determine what ships would need to power and operate a directed energy system.

“This is not a next year sort of thing,” he said. “So the course in the next year or so is developing the roadmap targeting completion of development, ultimate integration, so that this true leap ahead capability can get in the hands of the fleet and warfighter sooner than if we simply left it to a technology push.”

“It’s a promising capability without a clear path to a ship or even ground station that is going to put it to work,” Stackley added.