Meet THOR, The Ultimate Drone-Killing Microwave Weapon

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), showcased its $15 million high-power microwave weapon that can instantaneously kill swarms of enemy drones within minutes. The New Mexico-made weapon, nick-named THOR (Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder), was demonstrated live at the Kirkland US Air Force Base where it destroyed a drone with invisible and inaudible electromagnetic waves.

According to Kelly Hammett, the Head of AFRL's Directed Energy Directorate in Albuquerque, with a rise in constant military threats from enemy drones, the AFRL worked on the system with an expedited 18-month timeline so as to ensure that the system was provided to US warfighters as soon as possible and help them protect military bases from multiple-drone attacks. 

AFRL has been developing microwave and laser defense technology for years, including collaboration with Raytheon, which built its own anti-drone microwave system in recent years. The trials, however, showed some limitations when integrating Raytheon's system with other military technologies and battlefield tactics and protocols. Raytheon has since invested more resources to further develop its system, which could still be deployed in the future by the military. But AFRL chose to also build THOR to offer different operating capabilities and more options for the military to rapidly meet urgent defense needs, according to Hammett.

The THOR system is designed for rapid deployment wherever needed, with the microwave antennae and foundation stored in a shipping container transported on a flatbed truck. The equipment is stored in parts for easy, snap-together assembly in just three hours. It takes only two people to set it up and three to tear it down, according to AFRL. The antennas are controlled by a handheld remote in all directions as needed, providing 360-degree defense against drones. The firing mechanism and overall system control are operated from a laptop.

AFRL spent nearly $15 million to develop the weapon system but expects it to cost around $10 million once the U.S. DoD adopts it for deployment. The weapon was built in co-operation with BAE Systems, Leidos and Verus Research.