Wednesday, May 22, 2024

AFRL’s drone swarm killer THOR will welcome new drone hammer

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate is looking for partners to build a new system for combating electronic weapon systems to defend against the ever-increasing threat of adversarial drone activity.

As admitted by the program manager, the Tactical High-Power Operational Responder (THOR) turned out to be a great success. However, it was only a demonstrator of the technology and concept of using high-powered microwave weapons to secure one’s own resources. Now is the time to transform the latest technological solutions and the experience gained with the demonstrator into an even better combat system capable of neutralizing current and future threats.

The success of this solution has already translated into further work on the project. Their result is to be Mjolnir – an advanced high-power microwave weapon system to combat entire swarms of hostile drones. ARFL will soon open requests for proposals from companies interested in developing the technology.

AFRL’s prototype THOR looks nothing more serious than a shipping container with a satellite uplink dish. But beneath this innocent exterior, the system is capable of selectively targeting drones and taking them down with ease. The THOR demonstrator used bursts of intense radio waves to disable small unmanned aircraft systems 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,” said Amber Anderson, THOR program manager.

A follow-on system named Mjolnir, the hammer belonging to the mythical Norse god Thor, will soon be under development at AFRL. The Mjolnir prototype will use the same technology but will add important advances in capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness.

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,” said Adrian Lucero, THOR deputy program manager. “The program will begin this fall with a delivery of the prototype weapon in 2023.

Importantly, not only large corporations but also smaller companies will be able to submit their proposals. This creates opportunities for a greater number of entities and allows for greater flexibility and innovation.