Microwave weapons (like those from Star Wars) already exist in reality


Since science fiction has become a thing, sci-fi weapons have also become a thing. Lasers, ray guns, microwave guns, you name it, and someone wrote about it. Many of them are still fiction, but some are gradually getting closer to reality. Laser weapons, for example, are already tested by the US military and many believe they are already on the verge of use. Another thing militarists are taking a close look at are microwave weapons.

Image credits: Pixabay / pexels.

If there’s one great sci-fi franchise that teases guns, it’s Star Wars. For half a century, the Star Wars universe has featured all manner of crazy weapons (including your favorite lightsabers), but many of them have no real-world equivalent.

But that may soon change. Some recent weapon systems and defense experiments (conducted both inside and outside the United States) have successfully demonstrated the use of high power microwave weapon technology.

The physics of microwave weapons stand up to scrutiny, and defense experts say they can do a lot of damage. In theory, at least, a long-range microwave beam could severely damage human brain cells and tissues and make soldiers and others nearby permanently blind.

What are microwave weapons and how do they work?

Image credits: Francesco Ungaro / pexels

High Power Microwave Weapons (HPMs) use focused beams of electromagnetic energy (frequencies between 500 MHz and 3 GHz) that can deactivate electronic systems, disarm air defense networks and destroy enemy installations. Such weapons are also called Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), and they are capable of releasing energy in the form of microwaves, laser beams, plasma, or sonic rays.

Microwaves are basically a form of electromagnetic radiation. Microwave wavelengths range from one meter to one millimeter, and they operate at a frequency between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. You can sort of tell that microwaves can do a lot of damage just by thinking about your microwave and how fast it heats your food or drinks. It does this by sending dispersed energy in the form of molecular rotations and raising the temperature.

Your microwave weapon only works in a small enclosure, but microwaves can be used to transmit energy over long distances – and this is the principle on which the microwave weapons on offer would work, too. .

A powerful microwave weapon system has three main units: a pulsed power source that produces high voltage electrical pulses; an HPM source which generates microwaves either from a linear electron beam (by converting the kinetic energy of electrons into electromagnetic radiation); or directly through impulse sources such as electronic circuits; and finally, an antenna which allows the focusing of high power microwaves on a target.

Unlike conventional artillery units, microwave weapon systems do not require physical ammunition, but they require large amounts of electrical energy and can also operate with explosive chemicals.

Promising Developments in Microwave Weapon Technology

A prototype PHASR laser rifle. Image credits: US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

In January 2019, an advisory was released by the Department of Defense revealing that the US military is considering creating an Ultrashort Pulse Laser (USPL) system to advance its tactical capabilities and meet future demands for warfare. The USPL is part of the department’s plans to modernize the military, and when complete, it could become the most powerful laser weapon system ever.

However, the USPL is not the only initiative concerned with the development of microwave weapons. Here are some similar microwave programs and weapons that exist in reality:

  • The U.S. Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has developed a Directed Energy Maneuvering Short Range Air Defense System (DEM SHORAD) to bring down swarms of enemy drones and other UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). hostile. This laser fire system is installed on Stryker vehicles and by 2022 the RCCTO plans to deliver at least four to the military.
  • A 2018 report by South China Morning Post reveals that China has developed a lithium-ion-powered laser rifle that can shoot invisible microwaves at the target and even ignite it. Believed to be the laser equivalent of the AK-47, this non-lethal assault gun is called ZKZM-500 and is said to be used by Chinese police and the military in future covert military operations. However, many defense experts have cast doubts on the claims of the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics regarding the range and laser fire capabilities of the ZKZM-500.
  • The European weapons manufacturer MBDA is developing a laser weapon system named “Dragonfire” which could be deployed on warships belonging to the British Royal Navy. This new LDEW (Laser Directed Energy Weapon) system would be capable of firing multiple lasers powered by thousands of kilowatts and providing defense against drones and other enemy airborne units. Recently, the UK government also awarded military contracts worth $ 100 million to companies like Raytheon and Thales for the development of directed energy weapon systems.
  • A video uploaded by the US Navy in May 2020 shows a successful laser weapon test on a San Antonio-class transport ship USS Portland. During the test, a 150 kW-powered laser weapon system fires an energy beam at an AV flying in the sky, the target ignites as soon as it makes contact with the beam and is destroyed.
  • The Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is working on a classified project named Durga II, which is actually a 100 kilowatt lightweight directed energy system. The organization plans to design Durga II in such a way that it can be deployed anywhere from military land vehicles to airplanes and warships.

Besides these recent developments, countries like Russia, Australia and Israel have also developed their own microwave laser weapon systems. Some of these systems have already been deployed and others are in the testing or development phase.

Microwave weapons other than laser systems

An LRAD deployed to USS Blue Ridge. Image credits: Tucker M. Yates / Wikimedia Commons

Compared to traditional artillery, microwave weapons have many tactical advantages. For example, microwaves, when fired from a weapon, hit the target without being affected by external factors such as wind, weather, inertia, gravity, etc. Additionally, enemy soldiers cannot see or hear oncoming microwave fire unless they have a specialized microwave. detection sensors. Additionally, microwave weapons only require a power unit and no other heavy logistics or ammunition supply units during a mission.

These are the main reasons why countries and defense companies spend millions of dollars to create effective microwave weapons. However, these are not the only types of futuristic weapons actively sought after in the military field.

Other types of futuristic weapons

Sonic and ultrasonic weapons

These weapons release unbearable sound waves that can cause pain, severe headaches, ear bleeds, eyeball vibrations, and even permanent hearing loss. Sound cannons used by police to control the crowd during a demonstration are also an example of sonic weapons, they operate on a frequency similar to microwaves. A sonic system falls under the category of non-lethal weapons and is sometimes also referred to as a long-range acoustic device (LRAD).

Plasma weapons

Similar to Han Solo’s Blaster Pistol, Plasma Weapons are capable of firing Plasma Bolts at the enemy. In physics, plasma is called the fourth state of matter which is formed of free ionized electrons and may also contain other subatomic particles. They are used to stun, burn, or warn the target, but like sonic weapons, they are also said to be non-lethal.

The Plasma Acoustic Shield System (PASS) developed by Stellar Photonics for the US military is one such plasma weapon system that is said to be capable of firing plasma shock waves (both lethal and non-lethal) at the target.

Thermal beam weapons

A DEW system, capable of raising a target’s surface temperature and destroying enemy electronics. It is designed for area security, port protection and crowd control and if a human is hit by a heat ray weapon, they may experience a burning sensation and severe pain in the skin.

The US Army’s Active Denial System is a riot weapon based on thermal ray technology, it can shoot microwaves up to a distance of 1000 meters and is used in defensive and offensive operations on the ground.

From laser-firing planes to bulletless plasma rifles and vibration-causing sonic cannons, defense researchers are working on many insane microwave weapon ideas, but only time will tell how many. they will become a reality.


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