Although DEW systems have the potential to be used for offensive purposes, currently, weapons development programs are mainly focused on defense systems. DEWs, if successfully developed and deployed, have immense potential to be revolutionary in the long future. The evidence indicates that directed-energy will soon become one of the most powerful technologies for success on the battlefield and will eventually replace many existing forms of weaponry. Listed below are the key macroeconomic trends impacting the DEW theme, as identified by GlobalData.

Increase in use of DEWs to reduce military operational cost as well as enhance military capabilities

With the use of DEWs, military forces will be able to modify the weapon based on situational requirements, which will help to reduce operational costs. Furthermore, as the DEWs can be launched using platform generated power, it will require no additional cost of ammunition. This factor will lead to a further reduction in military operational costs and enhance the defensive and offensive capabilities of the armed forces.

Global warfare is rapidly evolving. Threats are becoming more sophisticated and technologically advanced. Using expensive single-use missiles to eliminate small targets such as drones and swarm boats is not a sustainable strategy. Directed energy weapons offer huge potential cost savings in various tactical scenarios. Traditional weapons cost thousands or millions of dollars per shot and are limited by availability.

According to the US Dod and US Navy, the cost per shot of a laser weapon is estimated to be $1. This factor has driven more investment into the global DEWs market. Demand for such systems by military forces is expected to increase.

Defence budgets

According to the SIPRI’s Trends in World Military Expenditure Report, World military expenditure is estimated at $1,822 bn in 2018. This was 2.6% higher in real terms than in 2017, and 5.4% higher than in 2009. The growth in national defence budgets, heightened geopolitical tensions, and naval technological developments are creating strong demand for armed forces modernisation.

Defence budgets will determine the ability of governments to acquire the necessary capabilities and establish cooperation with allied nations. Considering the range of security threats that need to be tackled resources will always be in scarcity. Therefore, governments will have to find a balance to maximise the return from the investment and the benefit for the society.

This is an edited extract from the Directed Energy Weapons (Defense) – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.