Leonidas is a high-power microwave (HPM) technology-based directed energy weapon system developed by US-based technology company Epirus to provide counter-uncrewed aerial system (C-UAS) capabilities.
The ground-based Leonidas system was launched in 2020 while the third-generation variant of the platform was unveiled in April 2022.
Leonidas can disable a single target in crowded spaces and multiple targets across a wide area such as a military base, border, or critical infrastructure site.
The directed energy weapon system can be deployed to protect forward operating bases from incoming threats.
Leonidas system design details
Leonidas is a C-UAS electromagnetic pulse system, which provides static and mobile C-UAS defence capabilities.
It is designed to allow for future enhancements to achieve rapid deployment without the need to add new hardware.
The design allows for continuous upgrades and optimisation of the system’s electromagnetic waveforms to successfully counter evolving targets at a longer range.
The C-UAS was built with an open system architecture and a modular hardware design to support integration with customers’ command-and-control (C2) systems to detect, track and target UAS. It incorporates commercial solid-state technology that reduces its size and weight.
Its open application programming interface (API) enables interoperability. The system is also scalable to meet the high-powered requirements of customers.
The Leonidas system can be fitted into the rear section of a pick-up truck.
Features of the Leonidas directed energy weapon system
Leonidas can be used to simultaneously identify and neutralise drone swarms. It can also hit targets with high precision and accuracy.
The system delivers high performance in a very small form factor. It is equipped with a digitally beamformed antenna, which optimises the amount of power used on the target and protects friendly forces from excessive power.
Leonidas also adheres to programmable no-fly zones to ensure friendly drones can operate safely while hostile UAS are disrupted.
The power amplifiers provide deep magazines with a rapid rate of fire with near-instant effects on the target without overheating. The system eliminates the need to reload.
The HPM weapon system operates at low voltages, which mitigate the risk of harmful emissions to system operators. It can be deployed for a range of missions, including counter-UAS swarm, counter radar, and counter jammer.
The C-UAS can launch a series of waveforms to target the frequencies that drone targets generally use. It uses line-replaceable amplifier modules (LRAMs) that can be serviced or repaired on the field in less than eight minutes.
Technology used by Leonidas
Epirus uses an array of gallium nitride (GaN)-based semiconductors, which can operate at high voltages with low temperatures, and high-power density. The design eliminates the use of vacuum tubes or coolants to support operations.
The SmartPower power management system leverages artificial intelligence-enabled GaN semiconductors to produce high levels of power density to transmit HPM to overwhelm the electronic systems of the target drone.
SmartPower uses real-time data to improve the power capabilities of the C-UAS solution.
Upgraded version of Leonidas
The third generation of Leonidas was demonstrated at the US Department of Defense’s HPM C-UAS technology demonstration event in April 2022.
The system successfully showcased its capabilities against a range of UAS targets during the demonstration.
The latest version is equipped with software and hardware upgrades to provide enhanced operational capabilities. It is claimed to feature more than double the power of the previous version.
The third generation of the system features a ruggedised design and is installed on a military-grade trailer.
A 360° mechanical gimbal is fitted to the system to provide increased coverage and expand the azimuth of protection against incoming threats.
Leonidas Pod details
Unveiled in February 2022, Leonidas Pod is a lightweight, compact system, which can be mounted on a drone to address the threat posed by drone swarms. It provides multiple mount options and supports integration with existing aerial systems.
The C-UAS can be quickly started and deployed to the threat zone. It features extended battery life, which allows it to travel to the threat and return to the base after the completion of the mission. It can also operate on standby mode.
Leonidas can be deployed along with Leonidas Pod to provide a multi-layered defence solution.
When deployed together, the systems can achieve increased power and range.
Partnerships and contracts secured by Epirus
The US Navy selected Epirus to develop a prototype-directed energy system to counter nefarious vehicles or vessels in June 2020.
The directed energy system will be deployed to provide non-kinetic capabilities to address threats at increased stand-off ranges while reducing collateral damage.
Epirus and Northrop Grumman signed a strategic supplier agreement in July 2020. The former is required to supply Leonidas to Northrop Grumman to offer it as part of its C-UAS systems-of-systems solution.
Northrop Grumman’s Forward Area Air Defense C2 system was selected by the US Army as the interim C2 system while an enduring counter-small-UAS (C-sUAS) solution is developed the same month.
General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) signed a collaboration agreement with Epirus in October 2021. The agreement calls for the integration of the Leonidas system and the broader HPM technology into the GDLS-manufactured US Army Stryker vehicle and other manned and unmanned ground-based combat vehicles to provide advanced short-range air defence (SHORAD) capabilities.
The two companies unveiled the Stryker Leonidas integrated counter-electronics system at the Association of the US Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in October 2022.
Epirus secured a $66.1m contract from the US Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) in January 2023, to deliver and support several prototypes of Leonidas.