The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory said that its directed energy directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M., used the high-power microwave Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR) system to shoot down drones in a test at the Chestnut Test Site at Kirtland.
BAE Systems, Albuquerque-based Verus Research, and Boise-based Black Sage developed THOR, which uses intense radio frequency waves to disable small drones quickly. Pentagon officials have said that U.S. and allied bases present ready targets for attacks by swarms of small, inexpensive, “kamikaze” drones.
On Apr. 5, “the THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack,” Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager at AFRL’s directed energy directorate, said in an AFRL statement. “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.”
AFRL said that THOR demonstrated near continous firing at the swarm during the test.
Lucero said in the AFRL statement that “THOR was exceptionally effective at disabling the swarm with its wide beam, high peak powers and fast-moving gimbal to track and disable the targets.
Last year, AFRL’s directed energy directorate said that it had awarded Leidos [LDOS] a $26 million contract to draw upon lessons learned from THOR to develop Leidos’ Mjölnir high power microwave weapon against adversary drones (Defense Daily, Feb. 25, 2022).
AFRL has said that the Mjolnir prototype will use the same THOR technology but “will add important advances in capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness.”
Leidos said that its Albuquerque location is building the prototype, which Leidos said it is to deliver to AFRL in 2023.
Early last year, Leidos said that had received a potential five-year $82 million contract from the Air Force to support the service’s counter-small unmanned aerial system efforts (Defense Daily, Jan. 4). The contract is to support the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to enhance air base defense against small drones.