Laser weapons could be the future of warfare, and hence there is a worldwide interest in acquiring such system. DRDO is reported to have achieved a fairly advanced stage of testing a real prototype

Military powers who have deployed or were left behind in developing or acquiring expensive anti-missile or anti-drone systems are now engaged in a serious race to develop and deploy the next generation of laser weapon systems that can neutralise any missile or fighter aircraft or drone high in the sky or even within enemy airspace. From big powers like the United States or China to countries like Turkey, Iran or for even Pakistan, all are reported to have advanced or initiated work on the highly challenging laser weapon systems to make their skies unimpregnable. The laser laboratory of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also reported to have been working on such highly complex laser weapon systems for the last two decades, and is now reported to have achieved a fairly advanced stage of testing a real prototype of a laser weapon that can even destroy a ballistic missile.

Though the Indian defence establishment has maintained strict silence over the programme, its progress was first discussed in the US strategic circles. Later, several credible reports emerged that the DRDO Laser Laboratory was likely to test a prototype in 2023. Though the year passed without any murmur from the defence establishment, scientists are reported to be working hard to test the prototype of the laser weapon system in the first half of this year. For the layman, a directed energy weapon damages or destroys its target using focussed energy by means of laser, microwave or particle beams. Such a weapon system can protect vital defence infrastructure from missile or air attack.

DURGA-2: Laser Weapons That Can Be A Game-Changer

Directed energy weapons, also called laser weapons, if developed and deployed operationally, can neutralise any drone or ballistic missile attacks from the skies or even at the originating location as it can travel at the speed of the light. It can deflect the path of the missiles and can even destroy a fighter aircraft.

The present generation of anti-aircraft or anti-missile systems are not considered fool-proof but the laser weapon promises to have 100 percent kill probability. In fact, the laser weapon will prove to be a game-changer in military realm, and hence the DRDO is devoting its energy on this dream project. Some details of the laser weapon, dubbed DURGA-2 ( Directionally Unrestricted Ray Gun Array), was first revealed in the US Defence News magazine almost three years ago. Indian strategic circles are abuzz with the possibility of India deploying the laser system, which can destroy any ballistic or cruise missile launched by China or Pakistan.

The Chinese or Pakistani ballistic missiles pose greatest threat to Indian security. Though India has contracted with Russia for five S-400 anti-missile systems costing USD 5.25 billion to prevent incoming missiles from falling over Indian territory, it cannot guarantee the destruction of each and every missile directed at Indian metros. The laser weapon can also annihilate the enemy civilian or military radar and electronic warfare systems, which will render all enemy missile establishments useless.

The US defence media reported in 2021, the Laser Science and Technology Centre (LSTC) at New Delhi is working on this next generation laser defensive and offensive systems. This laboratory is developing and improving various laser generation techniques using solid state and fibre and chemical lasers for defensive fibre and chemical lasers for defensive and offensive use. The laser laboratory is the lead centre for this highly classified DURGA-2 project, which has been allotted $100 million by the government. The DURGA-2 Is planned to be integrated with land, sea and air based platforms.

The LSTC is reported to have succeeded in developing a 25KW laser that can target a ballistic missile during its terminal phase at a maximum distance of 5 km. The laser experts are working to enhance this range to 100 km or beyond. Earlier, in 2017, the DRDO had tested a 1 kw laser system mounted on a truck at a DRDO facility in Chitradurga, which was able to hit a target at a distance of 250 metre. The biggest challenge is to provide adequate power to the system for the high power laser weapons.