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US Air Force Research Laboratory Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration

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US Air Force Research Laboratory Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration

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US Air Force Research Laboratory Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration
US Air Force Research Laboratory Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration

The U.S. 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. 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. 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.

“THOR was extremely efficient with a near continuous firing of the system during the swarm engagement. 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,” said Capt. Tylar Hanson, THOR deputy program manager.

US Army Partners with US Air Force Research Laboratory THOR for Base Defense
Leaders from the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office enter the portable control center of Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power Operational Responder, or THOR, to view the system’s drone-killing capabilities, Feb. 11, 2021 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.(U.S. Air Force photo by John Cochran)

“The THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack. 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. 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 Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate.

THOR is a prototype Directed Energy (DE) weapon used to disable the electronics in drones, and was specifically engineered to counter multiple targets “such as a drone swarm” with rapid results. High energy lasers kill one target at a time, and high powered microwaves can kill groups or swarms, which is one reason that THOR offers a unique capability. THOR is housed in a 20-foot shipping unit, can be transported in a military cargo plane, and assembled by just two people. During and after THOR deployment, the RCCTO will continue to partner with the Air Force on the THOR program in support of the U.S. Army’s effort to provide a prototype Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High Power Microwave system to a platoon by fiscal year 2024.

US Air Force Research Laboratory Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration
The Tactical High-power Operational Responder, or THOR, a high-powered microwave counter drone weapon, stands ready to demonstrate its effectiveness against a swarm of multiple targets at the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, Chestnut Test Site, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., April 5, 2023. AFRL completed a successful demonstration of THOR simulating a real-world swarm attack. This was the first test of this scale in AFRL history. (U.S. Air Force photo / Adrian Lucero)

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