HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Army plans to field an experimental high-power microwave (HPM) weapons system by fiscal year 2024, a top Army official said Wednesday.

The service is working on adding the HPM to its Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) system, Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, Director of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), said during the Space and Missile Defense Symposium here on Wednesday.

Raytheon’s mobile high energy laser looks out into a wide-open sky. The company’s advanced high power microwave and high energy laser engaged and defeated dozens of unmanned aerial system targets in a recent U.S. Air Force demonstration. (PRNewsfoto/Raytheon Company)

The Army is developing IFPC to defeat rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles, and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) using a combination of physical weapons, high energy lasers, and now microwave weapons.

Thurgood said the Air Force is working on microwave burst weapons to defeat a threatening swarm of smaller UAVs.

The Army is planning to conduct a demonstration by FY ’22 and then field that experimental prototype with “residual combat capability” no later than FY ’24 at the Platoon level as part of the IFPC Company.

In March, the Air Force Research Laboratory said it planed to start testing two high-power microwave efforts over the next few years (Defense Daily, March 31).

Thurgood said while studying laser weapons the military realized “lasers are not the panacea of life, they can kill a certain number of things in a certain timeline on the kill chain.”

However, “if you want to kill a lot of things at one time, for example, let’s say a swarm of UAS, lasers may not be the right tool for that. Maybe a high-powered microwave where you can send out an electronic burst and hit all 30 things in a second might be best against small UAS,” he said.

Since bullets or lasers don’t work against a UAS swarm, the Army had to use “another tool in the toolbox,” in this case the microwave weapon/burst option the Air Force is developing.

Thurgood said if the microwave capability works well in small units it will transition to a program of record within IFPC. The same goes for laser weapon developments the office is working on as well.

He was referencing how last week the Army announced a program to build a 100-kilowatt laser integrated on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle trucks was adjusted to reach for a 250 to 300 kW capability (Defense Daily, Aug. 1).