The lab is testing this new technology to combat swarms of drones and to be able to do so from a greater distance than existing counter-drone technologies.
The Air Force Research Laboratory successfully demonstrated microwave-based counter-drone swarm technology, as the dangers of such swarms continue to evolve, according to an announcement on Tuesday.
The lab demonstrated its high-power microwave counter drone weapon—the Tactical High-power Operational Responder, or THOR—technology in early April to combat several targets at the Chestnut Test Site at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
“The THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack,” said Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate. “THOR has never been tested against these types of drones before, but this did not stop the system from dropping the targets out of the sky with its non-kinetic, speed-of-light High-Power Microwave, or HPM pulses.”
According to the lab, THOR provides high power microwaves to create a counter-electronic effect. After a target is identified, THOR—which draws power from a standard wall plug—silently discharges the focused energy beam in a nanosecond to instantaneously disable drones. It can provide non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets.
“THOR was extremely efficient with a near continuous firing of the system during the swarm engagement,” Capt. Tylar Hanson, THOR deputy program manager, said. “It is an early demonstrator, and we are confident we can take this same technology and make it more effective to protect our personnel around the world.”