The US Air Force is testing its prototype drone-killing microwave, the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder (THOR), “in a real-world setting” in Africa.
This was announced by Richard Joseph, the Air Force’s chief scientist.
This is necessary since Iran and its allies frequently use drones and drone swarms, this is necessary development that needs to take place, but a bit away from the Middle East, so as not to risk an escalation.
A May report by RAND Corporation’s Project Air Force also raised an alarm on growing base threats.
“The gap between the cruise missile threat and the U.S. joint force’s capacity and capability to counter the threat is particularly worrisome. Constraints on resources and Army prioritization of mobile short-range air defenses for forward forces suggest that shortfalls in air base air defenses are likely to continue unless U.S. Department of Defense force planning and posture decisions give higher priority to these point defenses.”
“We have recently deployed a test system to Africa for base defense … based on a microwave system. And the purpose is to be able to disrupt and destroy the performance of drones or swarms of drones,” he told the Mitchell Institute today. “It’s been tested extensively, works remarkably well. … I’ve watched it in action and it’s really quite impressive.”
He didn’t provide any details as to when the THOR would specifically be ready for deployment, however.
Joseph said THOR was “better than anything else” the service has right now, and noted that “the capabilities that can be incorporated in system are increasing day by day.”
The Air Force back in August was readying THOR for overseas field experiments.
THOR uses high-powered microwaves to fry drones’ electronics, shooting swarms out of the sky at short ranges. If anti-drone lasers are like sniper rifles, microwave weapons are like shotguns full of birdshot.
THOR was designed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and it uses a radar that AFRL bought from Idaho-based startup Black Sage last month.
“THOR is a directed energy game-changer,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy director, back in April 2020.
“Drones are becoming more and more pervasive and can be used as weapons intended to cause harm to our military bases at long standoff ranges. We built the THOR weapon system as a deterrent against these type threats. THOR with its counter electronic technology can take down swarms of drones in rapid fire. This capability will be an amazing asset to our warfighters and the nation’s defense,” said Hammett.
“The overseas field assessments are allowing us to understand directed energy as a capability against drones. This gives us a better picture of the military utility, reliability and sustainability, training requirements and implementation with existing base defense,” said Dr. Michael Jirjis, the Base Defense Experimentation director of the Air Force Strategic Development Planning & Experimentation (SDPE) Office.
Jirjis said the 12-month assessment of the directed energy weapon system would shape the Air Force’s future program of how to integrate the new weapon system on military bases.
It appears that the US is steadily improving its capabilities when it comes to the microwave weapon and the fight against drones, which would likely come in handy if the situation in the Middle East were to escalate.
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