KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico—The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) conducted a demonstration in early April of its high-power microwave counter-drone weapon, the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR), as it engaged a swarm of multiple targets at the Chestnut Test Site, Kirtland Air Force Base, the service announced this week.
“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.
Capt. 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 the military is 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 Capt. 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.”