Raytheon to build microwave weapon antennas for US Air Force and Navy
The US Navy and US Air Force have tapped Raytheon to design, build and test two high-power microwave antenna systems. These will be used in field-grade directed energy weapons to counter aerial drones and similar threats.
Recent conflicts have dramatically shown the increasing role that drones play in modern warfare. Even a small quadcopter of the sort you can buy in a hobby shop can be easily repurposed as a reconnaissance platform for artillery, or even as a way of delivering hand grenades with deadly precision. Add to this the specially made military drones of various sizes and levels of sophistication, and you end up with a formidable force that can be deployed in shocking numbers.
To counter this threat, scientists and engineers have come up with a number of approaches. One of the most promising is the use of directed energy weapons that use lasers and microwaves to disrupt or destroy hostile drones. The beauty of such systems is that, if they work, they can operate with unlimited ammunition that costs a dollar a shot and travel at the speed of light. The weapons can also be programmed to cover large areas of the sky while sparing friendly aircraft.
Under a three-year US$31.3 million contract from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Raytheon is tasked with developing prototype antenna systems by 2026 as part of the Directed Energy Front-line Electromagnetic Neutralization and Defeat (DEFEND) program.
The purpose is to produce rugged components for a weapon that can deliver high-energy beams across a wide range in the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Such microwaves have the potential to confuse, disrupt, or even outright destroy a drone's electronics, sensors and communications, turning it from a potential threat into a lump of refuse.
"Non-kinetic defense systems are a key part of America's national defense strategy," said Colin Whelan, president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon. "The new iterations of Raytheon's high-power microwave systems are cost-effective and reliable solutions that operate at the speed of light – enabling our war-fighters to defend against faster and more maneuverable threats."