According to the US Army, American armaments companies have succeeded in destroying large swarms of drones using new high-performance microwave technology. The US weapons manufacturers Epirus, Raytheon Technologies and Leonardo DRS are currently working on the defense systems.
Drones are also increasingly part of everyday life in the military. In addition to the many advantages that this technology brings with it, the associated dangers are also increasing. And as the threat of swarms of drones increases as technology advances, armies around the world are scrambling to combat them.
In the US, it is the US Army that has been put in charge of this area of research. The especially for this founded Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) is an agency that deals with the possibilities of combating small unmanned aircraft (UAS). The JCO works together with various armaments companies. According to the JCO, the US weapons manufacturers Epirus, Raytheon Technologies and Leonardo DRS have now successfully tested a new high-performance microwave technology that can be used to disable several drones at the same time.
On a test site in the US state of Arizona, the three armaments companies demonstrated to the representatives of the JCO that were present possible uses ground and airborne defense systems that use high power microwaves to destroy their targets. The system uses “focused electromagnetic pulses from a fixed location on the ground to destroy or disable unmanned aerial vehicles,” the JCO said in a statement.
“For the first week with the high-powered microwaves, our primary focus was how well the effector transmits,” said Michael Di Gennaro, leader of the JCO test team, at a May 11 news conference. And he added:
“We looked at the range to engage the incoming targets and also the time it took us to either deter or defeat the target.”
The targets in the tests were considered to be category one, two and three drones. Group one drones weigh up to 20 pounds (about 44 kg), group two UAVs between 21 and 55 pounds (46-121 kg), and group three drones weigh in excess of 55 pounds (122 kg and more).
Overall, the weapon manufacturers’ drone defense systems performed well in line with the requirements. The Leonardo DRS system – a so-called vector inversion generator – was “handicapped by the fact that it had no antenna to radiate,” according to Di Gennaro. However, it has the ability to relay threats detected by the government’s command and control system and then generate the energy needed to counter the threat. “This enabled us to use instruments to record the power output and the length of time the electromagnetic pulse impacted the target,” explained Di Gennaro.
The Epirus system, in turn, according to Di Gennaro, was able to “engage targets in exactly the range that is normally associated with the equipment currently in use.” It also promises “to be a little more effective in the future.” The Raytheon system “was still under development at the time of testing and shows promise for the future,” he said. “The possible range for combating incoming targets was (with this system), however, somewhat smaller” than with the competitors.
The JCO also evaluated the defense systems for combating small drones that are already being made available as a cloud service (CaaS) by US military service providers and are already in use on behalf of the US government. For this purpose, the JCO received a total of 25 examples of CaaS collaborations and selected five of them to demonstrate their capabilities. Those five were Anduril Industries, Black Sage, CACI, Rafael Systems Global Sustainment, and SAIC. Di Gennaro commented on this:
“We had five very complex architectures in front of us. Each of them brought with them a variety of different components for detection, identification, tracking and countermeasures, and we tested each of these components both individually and as a system, resulting in a forward base of operations defense scenario culminated.”
“This has been a learning curve for both us and the companies. We’ve had architectures out there that haven’t worked together before, particularly components and architectures that are coming to market for the first time.”
The JCO has been able to form new industry partnerships and bring together companies from different sectors that had not previously worked together, Gennaro explained.
“They try new combinations. They develop things while we work.”