US Army's high-power microwave weapon can take down swarms of drones
Technology company Epirus acquired on Monday a $66.1 million contract from the U.S. Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) in support of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High-Power Microwave Program, according to a press release by the company.
The program will see the development of a new microwave weapon called Leonidas that can bring down enemy drone swarms with a single shot while leaving friendly aircraft untouched.
Taking down drone swarms while leaving aircraft intact
Epirus will now collaborate with the RCCTO to swiftly deliver several of Leonidas’ prototype systems for $66.1 million in 2023, with options to acquire additional support services. Epirus plans to work with the RCCTO to transition Leonidas into a future program of record after successfully demonstrating the weapon’s prototypes.
“Time and time again, we’ve seen that current air defense systems are ill-equipped to tackle the threat of autonomous drone swarms. This contract with the RCCTO brings new counter-swarm capability to the Unmanned Aerial Services fight with our cost-effective, modular and upgradable Leonidas systems,” said Ken Bedingfield, Chief Executive Officer, Epirus.
“As the threat environment continues to evolve, so, too, will our capabilities, ensuring the U.S. Army is equipped with effective countermeasures to near-term and over-the-horizon electronic threats for decades to come.”
Leonidas has already demonstrated lethality against a broad range of Unmanned Aerial Services and other electronic systems. The powerful weapon has defeated swarms in multiple U.S. Government-sponsored test events, outperforming six similar systems. The company introduced the most recent iteration of Leonidas in April 2022, and it is more efficient than any that have come before.
Leonidas benefits from Epirus’ innovative, software-defined approach to high-power microwave weapons. This system enables upgradable lethality through simple software-based updates to deployed systems that advance the U.S. Army’s modernization efforts to meet current and future challenges.
Leonidas also benefits from an open system architecture to facilitate integration with the Joint Force’s existing and future command-and-control networks.
Privately funded research and development
All the company’s research, development, and validation of its systems has been privately funded and has thus far served to bring its fourth-generation high-power microwave system to life in an unparalleled timeframe.
This latest “contract award is a significant step towards bridging the long-established gap between industry innovation and the conventional norms of defense technology procurement,” further said Epirus’ statement.
“Epirus’ agile technology roadmap and unique rapid prototyping abilities allow the company to move at the speed of commercial technology development to equip our warfighters with cutting-edge weapons systems today to defend against the threats of tomorrow," concluded the press release.
Epirus made headlines last April when the Pentagon's Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office tested Leonidas. The test took place for a whole week, from April 4 to 22, 2022, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
This wasn’t the Pentagon's first demonstration of the technology. It conducted two more tests in 2021 in the spring and fall.
A young engineer called Robert Sansone won the first prize, and winnings of $75,000, at this year's Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest international high school STEM competition.