Buoyed by the success of its prototype, Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR), the Armed Forces Research Laboratory (AFRL) now plans to use its technical know-how in this space to build an advanced electronics weapon system to bring down drone swarms. ARFL will soon open requests for proposals from companies interested in developing the technology, a press release said.
Drone swarms are the next big thing in warfare and countries are already looking for innovative solutions that can be used on the field. As the cost of developing drones reduces every day, the threat to civilian targets is also on the rise. Anti-drone measures are, therefore, moving from conventional kinetic methods to non-kinetic ones. The use of directed high-energy microwave radiation is one such method that is being tested widely.
The AFRL has been testing this technology for over two years now. Its 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. Given that it is ready to be shipped, the system can be deployed anywhere with minimal personnel and in a matter of hours. It also runs on locally sourced electricity.
AFRL now wants to build an advanced system using the same technology and wants to work with businesses engaged in the directed energy field to do so. AFRL will share its technical expertise and use the capacities of its partners to economically produce these systems at scale. Advancements over existing technology are expected to be in the weapon system's capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness, the press release said.
But the device is unlikely to be a smaller version of the THOR. While the name, Mjolnir, has its mythical origins in the Norse God's powerful hammer, the name is only intended to keep the device name in the THOR family and not an actual representation of its intended size.
In addition to the companies, AFRL will work with the Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Office and the Army’s Rapid Capability and Critical Technologies Office to develop and deploy the prototype as early as 2023.
We will keep an eye out to see who the AFRL deems worthy of the Mjolnir.