THOR microwave weapon hammers drone swarms in demo test

THOR microwave weapon hammers drone swarms in demo test
THOR set up for field testing
THOR set up for field testing
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THOR set up for field testing
THOR set up for field testing

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has countered the emerging threat of drone swarms, using the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR) to take out multiple targets.

As the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has painfully demonstrated, drones are becoming a mainstay in modern warfare – not just for reconnaissance or isolated missile attacks, but as offensive weapons in sustained campaigns. Worse, the shadow on the horizon is the day when technology has advanced to the point where drones can attack in organized swarms in such numbers as to overwhelm conventional air defenses.

There are a number of approaches being explored and one of the more promising is the use of directed energy weapons. One of these is THOR, which uses high-energy microwaves fired in bursts over wide areas to counter in-coming hostile drones. It doesn't do this by blasting the drones like a laser, but by frying the delicate electronics, causing the robotic aircraft to crash.

Operated by Captain Eric Plummer, a test engineer with AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, THOR was set against multiple targets at the Chestnut Test Site, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, under realistic conditions. Using a gimbaled aiming system, it was able to track and engage the targets in nanoseconds, across broad areas of the sky, disabling them with high-power microwave (HPM) pulses.

Costing US$18 million, THOR is built into a 20-ft (6-m) transport container that can fit inside a C-130 Hercules transport and can be set up by two soldiers in about three hours. In addition, it has a user-friendly interface that requires only minimal training.

"THOR was extremely efficient with a near continuous firing of the system during the swarm engagement," said Captain Tylar Hanson, THOR deputy program manager. "It is an early demonstrator, and we are confident we can take this same technology and make it more effective to protect our personnel around the world."

Source: AFRL

Brian M
Wonder if the counter play for the attacking drones would be to have a microwave metal screen like the common kitchen microwave oven does, either as shield or as a Faraday cage?
Madness of war industry. One rocket hit and 18 milion dollars goes up in the smoke.
Shielding would only work for self-guided drones. Remote-guided drones have to receive signals, and thus need openings in the shielding. Remote-guided drones also have to transmit data back, which means you could send cheap drones to seek out those transmission sources.
We need to send Ukraine a couple dozen of these right away. Also laser weapons, F16's(300), F35's (50), M1 Abrams (1000), Himars (250), Howitzers (500) and give Ukraine a shot a really pushing Russia completely out of Ukraine as fast as possible.
How sad, that Mr. Zolczynski finds to need to put dollar amounts on the saving of lives.
How much is a life worth, Stanislaw?
Wow. Just Wow. Except - microwave radar detection equipped drones with microwave deflecting shields - I'll bet that technology would not cost 18 million dollars USA. These microwave pulses may target the avionics of modern aircraft as well. Can you imagine an attack helicopter zapped accidentally - or on purpose? Now, how was it we took out all the Iraqi anti-aircraft systems in Desert Storm - oh, was it the active radar impulses? Like smokeless gunpowder, it incrementally makes it harder to get to the enemy but after the smokeless gunpowder hit the scene, we just relied on reports (of gunfire instead of smoke to echo-locate a camouflaged position. What about a massive electromagnetic pulse similar to what sunspots produce? How much power does it take, how fast could it be deployed and then redeployed (likely not continuous fire). Good write up but dozens of drones individually targeted means the source of the impulse could be located by satellites or surveillance drones. I don't think this is the game changer. Just an expensive pentagon toy!
I don't believe that the gimbaled mechanical system is going to track the targets in nano-seconds. It may be fast, but not that fast. However, the microwave pulses could very well disable the drone in nano-seconds once it has been acquired.
We’d have had these a long time ago if the military had just taken a look at 1958’s “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.”
Whatever happened to secret weapons...?
This weapon has an advantage against Lasers, which are not effective in cloud rain or fog.
Presumably the beam is not tightly focussed?
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