On April 5, 2023, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) demonstrated its advanced high-power microwave counter-drone solution, the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR). This noteworthy event occurred at the Chestnut Test Site within Kirtland Air Force Base. During the demonstration, THOR effectively engaged and neutralized a swarm of multiple targets, showcasing its formidable capabilities.

“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. “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.

In response to the evolving risks posed by drone swarms, leaders from various Department of Defense (DoD) branches are collaborating closely to prioritize the exploration of innovative technologies such as directed energy. This concerted effort aims to address the future requirements of the warfighter in effectively countering these emerging threats. The DoD seeks to enhance its capabilities and readiness against drone swarm challenges by actively exploring and leveraging different technologies.

“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 demonstration’s success, 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.”

For more information about THOR technology, visit https://afresearchlab.com/technology/directed-energy/successstories/counter-swarm-high-power-weapon/

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.

Post Image- The Tactical High-power Operational Responder, or THOR, a high-powered microwave counter drone weapon, stands ready to demonstrate its effectiveness against a swarm of multiple targets at the Air Force Research Laboratory, or ARFL, Chestnut Test Site, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., April 5, 2023. AFRL completed a successful demonstration of THOR simulating a real-world swarm attack. This was the first test of this scale in AFRL history (U.S. Air Force photo/Adrian Lucero).

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