With an eye on the Iranian tactic of swarming a large number of small attack watercraft, the report released Thursday states that “DE systems could help counter these threats with significantly less collateral damage than that caused by kinetic defenses,” which would also be particularly useful in tightly packed urban settings.

In the next five to 10 years, it may be possible to use already mature laser technologies to defend forward bases against aircraft and rocket fire, the authors contend. Over the next two decades, they add, technological advances should make it possible to integrate directed energy weapons on small aircraft, tactical ground vehicles and aboard ships.

The report makes five recommendations:

• The Navy should be the “first adopter” for weaponizing a solid-state laser capable of producing 100 kilowatts or more of output energy “that could become part of a layered defense against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), and fast attack craft.”

• The Army and Air Force “should leverage mature laser technologies to develop deployable, ground-based DE defenses against air and missile threats to bases in the Western Pacific and Southwest Asia.”

• The Air Force and Navy should spearhead efforts to develop high-power microwave weapons for manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles and ground vehicles.

• The Marine Corps can act as the DoD’s “executive agent for non-lethal weapons, to transition advanced, non-lethal DE concepts being developed by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate to programs of record.”

• Testing should “seek to develop better data on DE lethality against vehicles, small boats, UAVs, cruise and ballistic missiles,” while experimenting with what effect environmental factors have on laser weapons operating in maritime and ground battlefield environments.

The authors conclude that due to previous program failures and tightening budgets, “cultural factors and the lack of resources, not technology maturity, are now the most significant barriers to developing major new DE capabilities over the next decade.”