Advertisement

Soon, the United States military will perfect technology capable of taking out a swarm of drones in the blink of an eye. This will be made possible using weaponized microwave-based technology, which has been a focal point for the Air Force Research Laboratory at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With the help of pertinent industry entities like Raytheon Missile Systems’ Ktech Division, Air Force researchers are spearheading efforts to make weaponized microwave-based technology readily available for combat.

This innovative research is backed by New Mexico’s congressional delegation, many of whom are seeking increases in government spending towards these programs. Albuquerque’s Air Force lab has spent decades researching microwave and high-power electromagnetic technology capable of destroying hostile system interfaces without harming pre-built structures and civilian populations.

One of the factors prompting this expansive research is the booming industry that’s formed in New Mexico from the Air Force laboratory’s role in laser-related research. Commercial contractors throughout New Mexico also began developing laser-based systems, which significantly bolstered the state’s economy. This is something the Air Force and private commercial contractors hope can happen again with microwave technology. Aside from corporate research entities like Raytheon and Boeing, New Mexico is developing a plethora of localized contractors currently researching and utilizing microwave technology.

The Air Force’s concentrated efforts on microwave-based technology even prompted a collaboration with the military’s Navy branch, who hope to adapt their counter-electronics high-powered microwave advanced missile project (CHAMP) for their own aircraft. This technology would be capable of flying over buildings and other constructs, using microwave bursts to fry electronics, computers, and other technological interfaces without triggering explosions—a move that could preserve infrastructure and mitigate unnecessary human casualties. Congress approved $15 million in funding for the CHAMP Program since 2014. This includes a $5 million upgrade for a pair of Raytheon CHAMP missiles that both aforementioned military branches are continuing to develop.

First tested in 2013, Raytheon is developing its own “Phaser” ground system for protecting bases and other territories from hostile drones or missiles. This interface would reportedly be capable of wiping out multiple drones in one sweep at the blink of an eye upon coming in contact with the device’s microwave bursts. When compared to lasers (which can only focus on neutralizing one target at a time and takes seconds to do so), the difference in efficiency is very distinct. Should this system be deployed, Raytheon Ktech will manufacture the Phaser at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque.

To date, only a few microwave-based systems have been deployed for active usage, testing, or demonstration like the Air Force laboratory’s MacPower System, a concentrated electromagnetic power system that can be mounted on an armored truck. With the purpose of destroying improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the microwave-based system was tested for nine months in Afghanistan over four years ago. The Air Force also possesses a nonlethal active denial system known as the “Pain Ray” (also based in Afghanistan). This was another mountable device that caused an intense burning sensation on the skin, but was ultimately never used in combative situations.

Advertisement
Advertisement