Novel weapon systems
In an increasingly complex security environment with foreign and domestic fighters operating with and amongst civilians, military commanders require innovative options in order to face new threats and challenges while reducing risks for fratricide and collateral damage. Traditionally, the ability of conventional weapons or weapon systems to damage or disable comes from kinetic, incendiary or explosive effects generated by chemical energy. Novel weapon systems allow engaging targets with different degrees of lethality by using alternative energy sources or effects. Due to evolutions in the field of miniaturization and energy technologies, novel weapon systems are providing an emerging solution for a broad range of modern military missions, including space, urban and unconventional warfare.
The Belgian Defence takes a specific interest in the research domain of these novel weapon systems. The assigned focus areas focusses on novel weapon systems technology intended for (temporary) incapacitation, neutralization or destruction of a target with the aim of generating either an offensive effect contributing to own mission objectives, or a defensive effect contributing to own force protection. The development of protection measures against these novel systems itself, remains part of the axis A9 “Protection of personnel, systems and infrastructure”.
This focus areas includes multiple facets:
Ballistics. This focus areas studies novel weapon systems that use non-traditional propulsion systems, with a focus on electromagnetic or electric propulsion.
Lethality. Given the complex environment and the broad portfolio of missions in which soldiers are being engaged, weapons with reduced or no lethal effect contribute to the flexibility of response options at their disposal. Belgian Defence, assuming the chair of the NATO Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Coordination Group has a continuing interest pursuing research in this domain.
Convergency1. The studied novel weapon systems require an integration with enabling subsystems allowing the system to detect, identify, track/chase, disable, hijack2 and destroy elusive (hidden, evasive, etc.) targets. Therefore, such systems need to integrate information originating from different sensor types and should contribute to / interact with battle management systems.
Directed energy weapons3 (DEW). The Belgian interest in this specific facet of the focus areas, that covers DEW, is expressed through the different research projects of departments in the Royal Military Academy. DEW include Laser energy weapons which are used with moderate attributed energy intended to dazzle sensor optics or as High Energy Lasers (HEL) capable of neutralising very rapid targets (space, hypersonic…) by destroying key components. DEW also include other energy weapon systems such as High Power Microwave transmitters, (ultra)sonic and electromagnetic pulse weapons.
Hypersonic. Although hypersonic weapons are included in this focus areas, the Belgian Defence does not intend to invest currently in this research field.
Ongoing projects concerning this focus area
1 A combination of technologies that are combined in a novel manner to create a disruptive effect (NATO Science & Technology Trends 2020-2040).
2 To take control over a target in order to direct it to a safe place out of harm’s way or to return it to its operator.
3 Ref: NATO Science & Technology Trends 2020-2040