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Market research brings out future disruptive technologies and how they will impact the existing product portfolio of related companies thereby impacting revenue. Military lasers is a fast-evolving technology and are likely to grow at a very fast pace in the near future. As per the latest research, the military lasers market inclusive of both the Defence and Homeland Security currently stands at almost 4 billion dollars with a Compounded Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.86 %. Military lasers offer certain distinctive features which come with their own pros and cons – but in many application areas, the pros far outweigh the cons thereby making the future look bright for military lasers from a market perspective.

Types of Military Lasers

The main types of military lasers are Solid-State Laser, Fiber Laser Chemical Laser, CO2 Laser, and Semiconductor Laser. Of these, Solid State lasers are most widely used. These lasers use batteries and are small in size. They include a diverse product portfolio such as Target Designators, Range finders, Imagers and DIRCMs (Directed Infrared Counter Measures). As per the recent study, Solid-state lasers will grow more in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East in the near future. Market research studies help in identifying favourable technologies which are likely to grow faster thereby helping companies in focusing their growth strategies in that direction. Additionally, they also help in identifying geographies where these technologies would find a better market thereby helping in the most promising geographical expansion.

Product Portfolio

Another area of interest in market research is helping companies in identifying a futuristic product portfolio. For this, it would be important to understand the underlying disruptive technologies which are likely to impact a particular product. In the following paragraphs, few case studies have been enumerated which will bring out these issues. Military Lasers can be used to develop multiple suites of products such as Laser Designators, LIDARs, Laser scanners, Laser Weapons, Laser Range Finders, Ring Laser Gyros, Laser Altimeters, etc. Laser weapons include laser-guided bombs, laser guns, laser dazzlers, etc. It would be of interest for any company to build up a product portfolio that would fetch the best revenues in the future. Traditionally, it has been observed the present revenue mix of any company is likely to change considerably considering future obsolescence of technologies and products both. A few interesting questions that would be addressed by market research would be :

  • Which laser products will offer the most lucrative market growth in the next 10 years?
  • Which platforms – land, naval or air, are these expected to be deployed the most?
  • Why are Ring Laser Gyros showing one of the most prominent markets? Which are the alternative technologies/solutions that may challenge the growth of this segment in the near future?
  • What basket of commercial and military laser technology products could be offered to clients?

Military Lasers – Pros & Cons

  • Commercial advantage: The major advantage of laser weapons over conventional ammunition is the low cost per shot. Each firing of a laser weapon requires only the minimal cost of generating the laser pulse whereas ammunition has to be stored, handled and transported at an additional cost. Lasers can be fired for as little as one dollar per shot, while conventional gun rounds can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars each. However, the developmental cost of laser weapon systems is high. For eg. Cost of a fibre laser weapon system maybe USD 20 million.
  • Flexibility for low and high calibre weapons: Lasers have an added advantage of scalable power levels allowing them to be used on low-power in a non-lethal mode and high power against more lethal targets such as aircraft and missiles. This is likely to give them an edge to provide a replacement for a large combination of multiple calibre weapons.
  • Simplified Operations: Lasers do not need any computations unlike for conventional ballistic trajectories for ammunition. They can simply be aimed and re-aimed quickly onto any target and travel at the speed of light.
  • Pain points/Lacunae (Cons). Lasers are prone to atmospheric absorption, scattering and other losses. Hence, it needs a much higher amount of power to be generated at the source to deliver the required energy to achieve a kill at the target. For eg. It may take 100 MW to be generated at the source to deliver 1 MW required to hit an incoming ballistic missile. Therefore, size and weight may become considerations for deploying lasers, especially on aerial and marine platforms for heavy-duty operations. However, a new technology called adaptive optics, which was developed for telescopes to compensate for atmospheric noise and concentrates the beams aims to overcome some of these challenges.

Military Lasers – A Disruptive Technology

  • For Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS): Considering the present status of tests on laser guns being conducted especially on Naval platforms, a laser weapon could be deployed operationally very soon with an effective range of approximately 1.6 km. This could replace CIWS used to destroy incoming threats in the last mile on Naval as well as other platforms. Companies manufacturing CIWS and other related medium calibre weapons could look at diversifying their product portfolios towards laser weapons in future. The preferred targets for these weapons would be drones, small boats and other similar targets.
  • Non-lethal applications: Laser dazzlers come both in the military and police category to be used in battle and domestic situations. These have been effective in both combat as well as homeland security applications. However, companies have to comply with UN’s 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons which is the regulatory guideline to be followed in the development of these weapons. Laser dazzlers form 15% of the market in the growing non-lethal laser weapons segment and are offering attractive opportunities to manufacturers. Here, few market research questions could be – Which end-user amongst First Responder, Police Forces and Special Forces is expected to drive this growth? What protocols are inhibiting the growth? A market research perspective covers and answers all.

Contracts and Partnerships.

No market research study would be complete without evaluating the emerging contracts and partnerships in the current market scenario. A good market study would empower a client with futuristic insight into entering into contracts/agreements to get a good head start. For eg., ÉcolePolytechnique and Thales signed a partnership agreement in February 2015 to develop a new revolutionary laser. Now, an analysis shows that France is the major winner of high-tech and photonics contracts, with almost €102 million. French companies awarded contracts include Thales Optronique, Groupe Amplitude, Fastlane, and Alstom. 

Conclusion

A future analysis of market potential is imperative for strategic business decision making in any company. Global companies, especially in North America and Europe, are seen to engage market research consultants for both syndicated study as well as consulting assignments. A systematic study of the market in different segments such as technology, type, platforms, application areas, geographies, companies etc goes a long way in providing the much-needed perspective to make a strategic business study complete.

Title image courtesy:https://nationalinterest.org/

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

Cdr Rupak Berry (Retd, IN)

By Cdr Rupak Berry (Retd, IN)

Commander Rupak Berry an alumnus of NDA is an electrical engineer, with specialisation in Naval Weapons from DIAT/ Pune University. He has served on board Indian warships and establishments and is a specialist in the field of design, development and maintenance of missiles, radars and other electronic equipment. He was a part of the DRDO in developing indigenous SAMS jointly with the Israeli Aerospace Industries. He was HOF at Naval College of Engineering, Lonavla. He is an Aerospace and Defence consultant presently working as an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Technology, Pune University.