US Army awards contract for microwave weapon to counter drone swarms

US Army awards contract for microwave weapon to counter drone swarms
The Leonidas high-power microwave weapon
The Leonidas high-power microwave weapon
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The Leonidas high-power microwave weapon
The Leonidas high-power microwave weapon

The US Army has awarded Eprius a contract worth US$66.1 million to deliver prototypes of a new microwave weapon called Leonidas that is capable of bringing down entire swarms of enemy drones in a single burst, while leaving friendly aircraft intact.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated, small, cheap drones can pose a real threat on the battlefield that will only grow as technology progresses. Off-the-shelf robotic aircraft have already proven to be invaluable for reconnaissance, target spotting, and even direct attack. Outside of war zones, they can also be a deadly nuisance if they are sent into airspace occupied by civilian aircraft.

One nightmare scenario is an enemy attacking with swarms of drones that can either overwhelm a location's defenses or force the defenders to expend missiles costing millions of dollars each to destroy a drone costing only a few hundred.

To counter this threat, increasing attention is being paid to directed energy weapons, including lasers and microwaves. These systems come in a variety of sizes and levels of sophistication, but they all share the advantages of operating at the speed of light, being able to engage multiple targets, and using electricity for ammunition at a ridiculously low cost per round.

One example of a directed energy weapon is the High-Power Microwave (HPM) Leonidas, which is being funded under the Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High-Power Microwave Program. Leonidas has been under development for some years and the new funding is intended to transition the technology to field-capable prototypes.

Like similar systems, Leonidas defends against drones by firing blasts of microwave energy that disrupts or destroys the uncrewed aircraft's electronics, sending it crashing to the ground. It can even take on cruise missiles.

The principle is quite simple, but the tricky bit is figuring out the optimum waveform for the job. Previously, this required modifying a lot of hardware, but Leonidas uses a phased array that is driven by software, making it very easy to reconfigure as well as requiring a smaller than usual crew to operate.

According to Epirus, Leonidas has the ability to precisely target a single drone, form a microwave wall to stop a swarm, shield specific areas of the sky, or configure itself to allow friendly drones to operate while taking out unfriendly ones in the same vicinity. It is also open architecture, easily scalable, and is designed to maintain safe zones to avoid harming humans.

"Time and time again, we've seen that current air defense systems are ill-equipped to tackle the threat of autonomous drone swarms," said Ken Bedingfield, Chief Executive Officer, Epirus. "This contract with the RCCTO brings new counter-swarm capability to the UAS fight with our cost-effective, modular, and upgradable Leonidas systems. As the threat environment continues to evolve, so, too, will our capabilities, ensuring the US Army is equipped with effective countermeasures to near-term and over-the-horizon electronic threats for decades to come."

The video below discusses Leonidas.


Source: Epirus

Well send it out!
This east/west proxy war is a boon to the military industrial complex. It's been going on since WW2.
Korea, Vietnam, the countless middle east conflicts, now Ukraine. THEY benefit the most each time the
east/west find some 3rd party to do battle with.
fluke meter
well - I think its very difficult to assess/know/quantify the benefits the west receives from having battle tech which is expected/known to be 10-40 years advanced contrasted to the host of hostile countries out there. For instance - it would seem faulty logic to say - well no one has attacked us for 40 years so we should not have spent any money on military (since the spending is part of why no one attacked)..
I have to say - it seems a pretty sweet deal to get paid $66M just to deliver a prototype. That just sounds like a research or development grant. Id like to go to a VC and ask for 66M to try to develop something - and then also ask - well how about instead of getting 80% of the company for $66M you get 0% ? most companies in real world have to convince people to help pay to develop product and then bring to a customer and then eventually get revenue. I suspect we (tax payers) are leaving money on the table with these types of grants.
Would be interesting to jump ahead and start to discuss what are the techs drones will deploy to protect from energy weapons?
Yeah I remember they were showing off this gizmo attached to a Stryker at some weapons conference last year. I figured the Army would be all for it and it looks like my hunch was right.
nameless minion
Are civilian or military aircraft affected by weapons like Leonidus?