Directed Energy Weapons: High Power Microwaves

Directed energy weapons (DEWs) are defined as electromagnetic systems capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focusing it on a target, resulting in physical damage that degrades, neutralizes, defeats, or destroys an adversarial capability. Navy DEWs include systems that use High Energy Lasers (HEL) that emit photons, and High Power Microwaves (HPM) that release radiofrequency waves. The U.S. Navy uses DEWs for power projection and integrated defense missions. The ability to focus the radiated energy reliably and repeatedly at range, with precision and controllable effects, while producing measured physical damage, is the measure of DEW system effectiveness. Conversely, capabilities to increase the resilience or survivability of platforms or Sailors from DEW threats are part of the Counter Directed Energy Weapons (CDEW) program.

The Office of Naval Research has three weapons-oriented research concentration areas: High Power Microwaves (HPM); Ultra-Short Pulse Laser (USPL) and Atmospheric Characterization; and Counter-Directed Energy Weapons and High Energy Lasers (CDEW & HEL).

Research Concentration Area: High Power Microwaves (HPM)

HPM weapons create beams of electromagnetic energy over a broad spectrum of radio and microwave frequencies (in narrow and wide-band), causing a range of temporary or permanent effects on electronics within targeted systems.

Directed energy HPM provides the U.S. Navy many benefits including speed of light attack, deep magazines drawing only from electrical power, broad beams for wide area coverage, low collateral damage, scaled effects based on waveform parameters and determination of intent by non-lethal means as an intermediate force capability.

Focus areas cover HPM sub-systems that optimize power and/or energy density at the electronic target for a variety of platform sizes and capabilities while minimizing size, weight, power and cost. Examples of related areas for S&T investment and research include supporting technologies such as power electronics, pulsed power drivers, power modulators, as well as frequency agile RF sources and antennas.

Additional research focus areas include research into electronic system coupling, interaction and effects with the first goal of enabling development of predictive effects tools for current systems. A second goal of this work includes an exploration of in band and out of band coupling and interaction mechanisms. This exploration will exploit developing advances in frequency and bandwidth agility both to identify new potential weapon system possibilities as well as to achieve significant improvements in size, weight, power, and cost in new variants of existing systems.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • RF coupling and modeling tools to capture complex EM wave interactions with electronics and associated enclosures, RF component disruption, along with novel techniques for experimental validation. Prediction of effects on electronics with improved techniques for HPM lethality testing and analysis. Analysis of HPM coupling mechanisms, electronic device interaction physics and component level effects validated through experiment. Development of tools and techniques for more efficient identification and utilization of novel RF waveforms.
  • Pulsed power/power electronics; including high energy density capacitors, power conditioning, high voltage switches, dielectric insulators, 3D printed/novel materials and power modulator pulse forming networks that enable higher duty cycle operation
  • Solid state and vacuum electronic-based HPM sources that provide frequency and waveform parameter tunability and are reconfigurable to adapt to changing requirements; computer codes for modelling HPM physics to enable the next generation of devices
  • Wide bandwidth high power amplifiers that provide the ability of very rapid waveform adjustment
  • High power, low profile or conformal antenna designs and capable radome materials, novel array concepts, high power beam steering techniques and distributed beam forming approaches
  • Novel HPM sensors, instrumentation and algorithms are of interest for measurement of waveforms and diagnosing system performance as well as applied to electronic battle damage indication (eBDI)

For More Information

Program Contact Information

Name: Ryan Hoffman

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 351

Email for Questions:

How to Submit

For detailed application and submission information for this research topic, please see our Funding Opportunities page and refer to broad agency announcement (BAA) No. N00014-21-S-B001.

  • Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.
  • Grants: All white papers for grants must be submitted through FedConnect, and full proposals for grants must be submitted through; instructions are included in the BAA.

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