During a recent US exercise, an energy weapon system built by Raytheon took out 45 drones. This year’s exercise took place at Manoeuver Fires Integrate Experiment (MFIX) at the Army’s Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill. The test included a high directed energy weapon which was combining Raytheon’s high power microwave beam and High Energy Laser (HEL) systems. Drones, mortars are a major battlefield hazard. The new technology is becoming sophisticated and expensive. There is also a danger that these expensive assets can be overwhelmed by the new and advanced flying machines that can swarm into the battlefield.
A very promising way to fight this is by using directed energy weapons. These fire beams can travel at the speed of light. It can reach from one target to another within a second. These weapons can be adapted to suit the target and cost as low as a dollar per shot. At MFIX, the approach was to combine a directed microwave beam which was operating from a fixed location with the HEL system installed on an Army dune buggy. The microwave weapon was designed to destroy the target’s electronic system while the laser destroys the target directly.
According to Raytheon, the microwave developed under US$2 million US Air Force Research Laboratory was able to take on multiple UAV swarms. It can knock out 33 drones in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. The HEL system identified, tracked and engaged Class I and II UAVs. It destroyed 12 of the drones in the air. Along with that, it destroyed six stationary mortar rounds as well. Dr. Thomas Bussing, VP of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said, “The speed and low cost per engagement of directed energy are revolutionary in protecting our troops against drones. We have spent decades perfecting the high-power microwave system, which may soon give our military a significant advantage against this proliferating threat.”