Since the first laser was introduced to the public in 1960, many countries, especially the US and Russia, have implemented large-budget programs for the development of laser weapons. In the past two decades, military use of directed energy technologies has quickly matured from the research laboratory to the operational force.

Listed below are the major milestones in the journey of DEWs theme, as identified by GlobalData.

1939 – Laser was invented and studies were initiated.

1952 – High Power Microwave technology was being invested upon.

1958 – Laser theory was released by Charles H Townes.

1959 – Russia claimed to have developed microwave power anti-ballistic missile system.

1972 – UK used laser weapons during Falkland War.

1972 – US signed Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

1985 – Japan initiated development of laser and microwave weapons for defensive purposes.

1996 – Genasys , former LRAD, launched its first directed sound technology.

1997 – US established The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

1998 – EU established The European Working Group Non-Lethal Weapons (EWG-NLW).

2001 – Raytheon demonstrated Active Denial System as non-lethal DEW.

2002 – US withdrew from Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty.

2002 – An anti-missile laser, called Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), developed jointly by the US and Israel successfully incinerated an incoming artillery round.

2003 – Genasys developed the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

2009-2011 – US Navy successfully tested a prototype solid-state laser (SSL) called the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) against UAVs.

2010 – A Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser destroyed a Titan missile booster, marking the first successful deployment of laser weapon technology.

2010-2011 – US Navy tested another prototype SSL called the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) on a Navy ship against a small boat.

2011 – The first airborne laser system, Boeing YAL-1 was tested on Boeing 747 by the US which could destroy ballistic missiles in flight.

2011 – Raytheon demonstrated a ship mounted laser weapon which was capable of taking drones down with a 50 kW beam development.

2011 – The US Navy initiated studies on Rail gun development.

2011 – Boeing initiated a Free Electron Laser (FEL) development.

2014 – Rafael unveils the “Iron Beam” – a mobile high-energy laser-based air defence system.

2014 – Boeing introduced an anti-drone compact laser weapon system.

2014 – A 15 kW laser beam was tested to inflamate small boats causing threat to the US naval ships.

2014 – Raytheon delivered the AN/SEQ-3 LaWS to the US Navy.

2014 – Boeing introduced the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD).

2014 – Lockheed Martin tested prototypes of Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control Turret on commercial jets.

2015 – Israel tested the first intercept the Arrow 3.

2016 – Russian firm, Unified Instrument-Making Corporation, announced the development of radio electronic weapon.

2017 – China announced launching the “Silent Hunter” – a fibre optics laser air defence system.

2017 – Russia begun to test a land-based a laser weapon system called “Peresvet”.

2017 – The UK initiated the Dragofire Program.

2019 – USS Portland (LPD 27) was fitted with a new, 150-kilowatt laser weapon developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Northrop Grumman .

2019 – UK begun to test the Dragonfire, prototype Laser DEW capability demonstrator.

2021 – US Navy install high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS) systems to Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyer.

2023 – US test a space-based directed energy weapon based on neutral particle beam technology.

2025 – Laser weapons are fully operationally on combat systems and vehicles.

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