The US Army plans to conduct field-testing as early as 2024 of THOR – Tactical High Power Operational Responder – a new microwave weapon designed to protect military bases from incoming drones. An on-site demonstration was recently held at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
THOR, built by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, is an electromagnetic weapon specifically engineered to counter multiple targets, such as a drone swarm, with rapid results. The system uses high power microwaves to cause a counter electronic effect. When a target is identified, it immediately discharges, using a wave that spreads out to disable anything within its electromagnetic cone.
“The Army’s directed-energy capabilities will need to provide a layered defense with multiple ways to defeat incoming threats,” Army Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood said. “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.”
The Air Force laboratory worked with Albuquerque-based engineering firm Verus Research, as well as with BAE Systems and Leidos. The system operates from a wall plug, stows completely in a 20-foot transport container for easy transport in a military cargo plane, can be assembled within three hours by just two people, and has a user interface that has been designed to require minimal user training.
“THOR, and other DE systems, provide non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets at once,” Thurgood said. “Keeping our soldiers safe is our number one priority, and we need to employ effective defensive weapons systems to stay ahead of the changing threats presented by our adversaries.”