Earlier this week, Army leaders approved a detailed plan to get high-powered microwave and laser weapons into the hands of soldiers, advancing rapidly in parallel to development of hypersonic missiles, Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood said here. But, he warned the AUSA conference here, directed energy is “not the panacea of all things.”

“Clearly, we can accelerate directed energy into our formations,” said Thurgood, who as head of the service’s recently reorganized and beefed-up Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO, manages the service’s most high-tech, high-priority programs: directed energy, space, and hypersonics. (More on hypersonics below). The Army’s especially interested in taking out incoming rockets, artillery, mortar rounds, and small drones with electrically-powered weapons that cost pennies per shot instead of expensive one-use interceptors. But lasers and microwaves have real limits.

For example, they don’t work well against swarms, where lots of small targets are converging on you at once. ”You want to kill a swarm of things — whatever that thing is — lasers are not really a swarm-killing tool. They can kill things fast but they can’t kill a swarm of things fast enough.”

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