DRDO’s Next: Star Wars-like Weapons


Move aside Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, DRDO is trying to develop its own set of Star Wars-like weapons. From laser dazzlers to control rioting crowds to high-powered lasers to destroy incoming missiles, DRDO is working on a slew of directed energy weapons (DEWs).

"Lasers are weapons of the future. We can, for instance, use laser beams to shoot down an enemy missile in its boost or terminal phase,'' said DRDO's Laser Science & Technology Centre (LASTEC) director Anil Kumar Maini, talking to TOI on Monday.


Incidentally, DRDO chief V K Saraswat himself has identified DEWs, along with space security, cyber-security and hypersonic vehicles, as focus areas in the years ahead. "LASTEC has the mandate to develop DEWs for armed forces,'' said DRDO's chief controller (electronics & computer sciences) R Sreehari Rao.


While conventional weapons use kinetic or chemical energy of missiles or other projectiles to destroy targets, DEWs decimate them by bombarding with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves at the speed of sound. Apart from the speed-of-light delivery, laser DEWs cause minimal collateral damage.

DRDO, of course, often promises much more than it can deliver. But even the defence ministry's recent "technology perspective and capability roadmap'' identifies DEWs and ASAT (anti-satellite) weapons as thrust areas over the next 15 years, as was first reported by TOI.

The aim is to develop laser-based weapons, deployed on airborne as well as seaborne platforms, which can intercept missiles soon after they are launched towards India in the boost phase itself. These will be part of the fledgling ballistic missile defence system being currently developed by DRDO.


The US, incidentally, is already conducting tests of high-powered laser weapons on a modified 747 jumbo jet, the ALTB (airborne laser testbed), which direct lethal amounts of directed energy to destroy ballistic missiles during their boost phase.


It will, of course, take India several years to even conduct such tests. For now, LASTEC is developing "a 25-kilowatt'' laser system to hit a missile during its terminal phase at a distance of 5-7 km. "All you need is to heat the missile skin to 200-300 degree and the warhead inside will detonate,'' said Maini.

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