Companies participating in a demonstration last month of their respective ground-based high-power microwave (HPM) solutions to counter small drones had varying degrees of success, the team lead for the testing effort said on Wednesday.

The testing at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona included HPM systems provided by Epirus, Leonardo DRS and Raytheon Technologies [RTX], the Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft System Office (JCO) said in a background fact sheet accompany a media briefing on the general results of the April demonstration.

The system provided by Epirus, which has developed the towable Leonidas counter-electronics system to defeat swarms of small drones, demonstrated it could defeat targets at ranges consistent with currently fielded systems, Michael DiGennaro, test team lead for the JCO Acquisition and Resourcing Division, said during the briefing. He also said the Epirus system “has the promise to be a little bit more effective in the future.”

The HPM system provided by Raytheon “was very much in development, shows some promise for future development, but…the ranges were somewhat shorter in their ability to defeat the incoming targets,” DiGennaro said.

DiGennaro said the system provided by Leonardo DRS “was hindered” because it didn’t have an antenna to radiate but did show it could take the hand-off from the command-and-control system user tests. No threats were actually defeated with this system, he said.

However, the testing showed the Leonardo DRS system was able to generate enough power to defeat the threat, “and with that, we were able to capture the power output and the amount of time that the electromagnetic pulse was put on the target just with instrumentation,” DiGennaro said.

Leonardo DRS is a U.S.-based business of Italy’s Leonardo.

The main focus of the HPM testing was how well the respective counter-UAS systems “emitted” power, the ranges that targets could be engaged, and how long it took to deter or defeat targets, he said.

The JCO in response to a query by Defense Daily after the media teleconference said that “All of the systems at the demonstration were in different stages of development,” but still “allowed for a thorough assessment” of each companies’ HPM-system components.

All the military services are interested in HPM solutions for countering small UAS with the Air Force and Navy having the lead, James Childress, deputy division chief for the JCO Acquisition and Resources Division, said during the teleconference. Both services are “looking at the technology and looking at ability to start procurement,” although no timelines exist, he said. The Air Force is “pursuing a certain technology and the Navy is pursuing solid-state technology,” he added.

“Certainly, we’re seeing a lot of promise out of the capability,” Childress said of the HPM technology.

The JCO-managed demonstrations occurred from April 4-22 and also included five vendors who brought their C-sUAS systems to examine the potential concept of C-sUAS as a Service (Caas) where the companies own the systems and they are operated by the government. Anduril Industries, Black Sage, CACI International [CACI], Rafael Systems Global Sustainment, which is a U.S. subsidiary of Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] all participated in the CaaS evaluations.

For the CaaS portion of the event, each company’s solutions included subsystems for detecting, tracking, identifying and defeating small drones, with each component tested individually as well as the entire system for effectiveness, DiGennaro said. All the systems were also demonstrated in a scenario representing defense of a forward operating base, he said.

It was up to the companies to decide how to engage the targets, he said.

The companies brought partners and some of the components of systems hadn’t previously been integrated so the evaluation was an opportunity to “form new industry partnerships” and have “companies with different elements of the engagement chain” work together, DiGennaro said.

“They’re developing things as we go,” he said.

DiGennaro also said that if a vendor’s “effector” was unsuccessful in engaging a target, they would bring in another mechanism to defeat a target.

“And we saw successes across the board with all the companies that are out there,” he said.

A final report on the HPM and CaaS evaluations is expected to be released late next week for internal use by acquisition decision and program management authorities. The data is still being analyzed, DiGennaro said.

The CaaS providers were selected to demonstrate because they met the requirements for being included, he said, adding that the concept of a contractor-owned, government-operated was a learning experience for everyone.

One lesson learned in the CaaS demonstrations was in one case two radars operating in the same frequency band in the same airspace “wasn’t pretty,” so they had to be alternated for each to be effective, DiGennaro said.

For the demonstrations, systems were tested against commercially-available fixed-wing and rotary-wing drones. The tests involved either one or two UAS at a time. The UAS consisted of Group 1 to low-end Group 3 aircraft, Childress said.

The test included a small Group 3 UAS that carried a payload, which to a degree got at the prospect of a loitering munition in the scenario, DiGennaro said.

The Defense Department characterized Group 1 UAS as weighing up to 20 pounds, Group 2 between 21 and 55 pounds, and Group 3 less than 1,320 pounds.

As with two earlier demonstration events hosted by the JCO last year, there is the possibility of contracts being awarded to participants by the armed services, Childress said. Contract actions from the earlier demonstrations are being worked, he said.

The first demonstration in April 2021 at Yuma was in partnership with the Air Force and looked at C-sUAS solutions with low collateral effects interceptor capabilities. Last August and September, the second demonstration was also held at Yuma and focused on low-cost, ground-based solutions with no inflight terminal guidance, and handheld and dismounted systems that are held or attached to a weapon or service member conducting dismounted operations.

Childress said the JCO is working with a “couple organizations” to explore a joint service lead for the CaaS capability.

The next demonstration is planned for September. Childress said the concept to be tested hasn’t been finalized. Asked by one reporter about whether observations from the ongoing war in Ukraine will be used to inform the next test even, Childress replied that “we always work with the threat community to incorporate current events and look at those and factor those into our” demonstration.