Directed energy weapon

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A class of weapons that do not use explosive force or direct thermal effects to damage, directed energy weapons attack using non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, or possibly charged particle beams. Lasers are the most common type in development, but microwave weapons also are known to be in active research. Charged particle beams, using protons or electrons rather than the photons of lasers, have been of some interest but do not seem to be a current area of development.

Lasers especially, but also microwaves, are highly directional. This category is generally accepted to include electromagnetic pulse weapons, especially those producing the pulse without the use of a nuclear weapon.

Nonlethal acoustic energy and noncoherent visible light weapons are being deployed as nonlethal weapons for crowd and riot control, and there is development of microwave weapons to cause skin heating.

Laser rangefinders and designators that guide other kinetic weapons are not themselves considered directed energy weapons, any more than radar or sonar used for fire control are themselves weapons.