Directed energy technology has emerged as a game-changing innovation in modern applications, driven by advancements in high-energy lasers and microwaves. These cutting-edge systems offer the potential to address various challenges more cost-effectively than current technologies. However, the key to their successful implementation lies in establishing secure and robust supply chains.
A recent study, conducted by the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies Institute, undertook an assessment of the state of supply chains related to directed energy technology. The study aimed to provide policy recommendations for the development and security of these supply chains.
The findings of the study reveal that the existing supply chains are ill-equipped to support the widespread adoption of directed energy technology. They currently have limited production capacity, resulting in extended lead times and inherent vulnerabilities. To address these issues, a series of recommendations have been put forward.
A crucial step suggested is for the Pentagon to clearly define its strategic objectives and transition pertinent technology systems into established programs. Utilizing multi-year contracts to signal consistent demand can incentivize industry investments in secure and resilient supply chains.
One of the identified vulnerabilities lies in the dependence on critical raw materials, predominantly sourced from China. Recommendations include diversifying sources by adding materials like gallium to the National Defense Stockpile, developing domestic production capabilities for essential materials like gallium nitride, and exploring synthetic alternatives.
Workforce shortages, especially in areas such as optical coatings and high-power optics, have been highlighted as another challenge. To tackle this issue, the proposal involves the creation of a Directed Energy University Consortium focused on cultivating a skilled workforce.
Security concerns within the supply chains have been recognized, with limited suppliers for critical components. To mitigate these risks, the application of artificial intelligence for predicting potential supply chain weak points is recommended. Additionally, regular comprehensive assessments of the financial stability and security risks associated with supply chain companies are encouraged.
To diversify critical material sources and enhance testing capabilities, international partnerships and collaboration with allies are seen as promising avenues. Overcoming obstacles like over classification and restrictive export controls is imperative for successful cooperation. The designation of an office responsible for international collaboration, along with collaboration with nations possessing complementary testing infrastructure, can bolster testing capabilities while safeguarding sensitive information.
Implementing these recommendations can bolster the resilience, viability, and security of supply chains supporting directed energy technology. This effort ensures the effective utilization of this groundbreaking technology. Directed energy applications are no longer confined to the future – action taken today can bring them into reality.