Tag Archives: HPM

THOR engaged a swarm

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, conducted a demonstration, April 5, 2023, of its high-power microwave counter drone weapon, the Tactical High-power Operational Responder, or THOR, as it engaged a swarm of multiple targets at the Chestnut Test Site, Kirtland Air Force Base.

AFRL conducts swarm technology demonstration

«The THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack», said Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate. «THOR has never been tested against these types of drones before, but this did not stop the system from dropping the targets out of the sky with its non-kinetic, speed-of-light High-Power Microwave, or HPM pulses», he said.

Captain Eric Plummer, a test engineer with AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, operated the THOR system and has been with the THOR program for nearly two years. He was responsible for aiming the THOR system at the swarm.

«THOR was exceptionally effective at disabling the swarm with its wide beam, high peak powers and fast-moving gimbal to track and disable the targets», said Lucero.

As the dangers from drone swarms evolve, leaders from across the Department of Defense are working closely to ensure we are exploring different technologies like directed energy to support the needs of the warfighter in the future against such threats.

«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».

While AFRL celebrates the success of the demonstration, leaders at Kirtland are recognizing the hard work of their team who have decades of research in high-power electromagnetic technologies.

«We couldn’t have come this far without the perseverance and professionalism of the entire THOR team», said Ken Miller, AFRL’s high power electromagnetics division chief. «Our scientists, Airmen and contractors worked early mornings and late nights to make this swarm demo…a great success. AFRL is committed to developing such advanced technologies to defend our service members on the front lines».

Thor’s hammer

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate is seeking partners to build a new counter electronics weapon system, to defend against the ever increasing threat of adversarial drone activity.

An artist’s rendering of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s THOR, a drone killer, capable of downing many adversarial drones in fractions of a second. A follow-on system named Mjolnir, the hammer belonging to the mythical Norse God, Thor will soon be under development at AFRL (Courtesy illustration)

Building upon the success of the Tactical High-Power Operational Responder (THOR) technology demonstrator, AFRL is building an advanced High-Power Microwave (HPM) weapon system to bring their newest technology to bear against the growing threat from unmanned aircraft.

«The new prototype will be called Mjolnir, after the mythical Norse god, Thor’s hammer», said Amber Anderson, THOR program manager. «Because THOR was so successful, we wanted to keep the new system’s name in the THOR family».

The AFRL team working from Kirtland Air Force Base are experts in High-Power Electromagnetics technology. The THOR demonstrator used bursts of intense radio waves to disable small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) instantly.

«After a successful 2-year testing campaign, the AFRL team has learned a lot about the benefits of the technology and how it can be improved», Anderson said.

The Mjolnir prototype will use the same technology, but will add important advances in capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness.

«We are releasing an opportunity for businesses in the directed energy field, to help us build the follow-on system», said Adrian Lucero, THOR deputy program manager. «AFRL’s goal is to create a blueprint for our partners so these systems can be economically produced in large quantities, and to grow a fledgling industry that will become critically important as the U.S. strives to maintain our electromagnetic spectrum superiority».

AFRL is working closely with cross-service partners in the Joint Counter sUAS Office and the Army’s Rapid Capability and Critical Technologies Office.

«As the danger from drone swarms evolves, all services are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like Mjolnir, will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats. The program will begin this fall with a delivery of the prototype weapon in 2023», said Lucero.

A request for proposal from companies interested in working with AFRL to develop this prototype will be posted on SAM.gov, an official site for companies seeking federal contract opportunities.