The US Army has invested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR) system programme.
The financial contribution in THOR will support the army’s efforts to provide a prototype Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Power Microwave (IFPC-HPM) system.
Developed at the AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB), THOR is a counter-swarm electromagnetic weapon developed for the defence of airbases.
The prototype directed energy weapon leverages high-power microwaves to trigger a counter electronic effect to disable drones.
THOR programme manager Amber Anderson said: “The system output is powerful radio wave bursts, which offer a greater engagement range than bullets or nets, and its effects are silent and instantaneous.”
The technology is installed in a 20ft-long shipping container that can be transported in a military cargo aircraft such as C-130.
Currently, THOR prototype is undergoing a set of risk reduction and system characterisation efforts at Kirtland airforce base in preparation for its deployment overseas.
US Army lieutenant general L Neil Thurgood said: “The army’s directed energy capabilities will need to provide a layered defence 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 for our indirect fire protection capability rapid prototyping effort.
“Our partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory gave the army a running start on the high-power microwave mission, and we look forward to continuing to advance these capabilities to protect our warfighters.”
The US Army has plans to deliver a prototype IFPC-HPM system to a platoon by the fiscal year 2024.
It also has plans to provide an IFPC-High Energy Laser capability prototype in FY-2024. This prototype is designed to use a 300kW-class laser for fixed site defence.