The US Army will carry out field-testing of a new microwave weapon called THOR, designed to thwart enemy swarm-drone attacks, in the next few years.
According to military officials, the testing of the weapon will be conducted following an on-site demonstration at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base. It will act as a shield against multiple drones that could simultaneously threaten military installations.
Reports suggest a Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR) has been developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB). According to reports, THOR is a counter-swarm electromagnetic weapon developed for the defense of airbases.
Microwave weapons use highly focused energy in the form of a sonic, laser, or microwave to attack the target. These ‘direct energy weapons’ use a focused beam of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation to heat the water under the skin.
These weapons convert energy from a power source like a wall plug or the engine on a military vehicle into radiated electromagnetic energy and focus it on a target.
Quoting a Chinese expert, The Eurasian Times had reported in December last year that China had allegedly used directed energy or laser weapons against Indian soldiers during the border stand-off in eastern
Using Laser Weapons Against Drones
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones have become a key part of modern warfare. Countries such as the US, Israel, Turkey, China, and the United Kingdom are increasingly using drones in combat, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions.
Drones ranging from the smallest Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System to the largest 47.6 feet long Northrop Grumman RQ-4 have been put to use by militaries across the globe.
However, drone technology is also increasingly falling into the hands of terrorists and extremist groups which want to target militaries or the general public.
Recent drone attacks across the world have shown how drones used by non-state actors and terror elements pose a serious threat to the safety of the military personnel and the general public at large.
THOR is a prototype directed energy weapon used to disable the electronics in #drones & is specifically engineered to counter multiple targets – such as a drone swarm – with rapid results. @AFResearchLab @USArmy https://t.co/ar0B0nUO8W
— U.S. Air Force Materiel Command ✈️ (@HQ_AFMC) February 23, 2021
The advent of modern laser weapons like THOR would enhance the combat capabilities of the US Army. US Army’s Lieutenant General L Neil Thurgood, who visited the Kirtland base earlier this month, said that he had watched the weapons system at the base.
According to him, the US Army’s investment in microwave and laser weapons will address a growing problem of drones, the solution to which will lie in the Army acquiring newer tools.
“The Army’s directed-energy capabilities will need to provide a layered defense with multiple ways to defeat incoming threats,
“High-energy lasers kill one target at a time, and high-powered microwaves can kill groups or swarms, which is why we are pursuing a combination of both technologies,” said Thurgood.
According to Kelly Hammett, head of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate that built THOR, the US Army has plans to invest as a partner starting in October.
It will be followed by its field testing in 2024, however, it seems unlikely that the system will be deployed by the military before 2026.
“They intend to procure enough systems for a platoon unit in 2024 to do experimentation with a mix of weapons,
“They will put microwave and lasers together in a single unit to assess how to deploy it all,” said Hammett.
According to reports, around $15 million had been spent by the laboratory to build THOR in cooperation with BAE Systems, Leidos, and Verus Research, an Albuquerque-based engineering firm.