Directed Energy Weapons Supply Chain
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Directed energy weapons (DEWs), including high energy lasers (HELs) and high-power microwaves (HPMs), have emerged as potentially transformative weapons on the modern battlefield. Recent advancements have made DEWs more capable than ever, with many systems possessing the power and range necessary to engage a wide variety of threats, more affordably than current systems. Recent conflicts in the Middle East and Europe have highlighted the importance of munitions capacity as well as the need to both efficiently and effectively counter different kinetic threats. The ability of some DEW systems to engage many targets at once with an “unlimited” magazine could yield enormous economic and tactical benefits. However, the DoD has often wavered in its commitment to fielding DEWs at scale. As such, current DEW supply chains, including critical raw materials, the manufacturing base and workforce, and testing infrastructure, are incapable of supporting DEW deployment at scale. The current DEW supply chains are only able to produce small quantities of systems with long lead times. Without a clear and sustained demand signal from DoD, and therefore a return on investment, industry is hesitant to make the investments necessary to have secure, healthy, and resilient DEW supply chains. While addressing these vulnerabilities is a formidable task, it is not insurmountable. To strengthen DEW supply chains and fulfill the potential of these cutting-edge technologies, a series of concrete steps by government, industry, and academia are necessary.