THOR: AFRL Electromagnetic counter-swarm drone weapon

thor-AFRI

Air Force Research Laboratory’s THOR is a portable counter-UAS system, capable of destroying swarms of drones at speed-of-light, at long range, in its base defense mission.

In 2019, scientists and engineers, working in AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, were tasked with the challenge of creating a technology that would provide additional layers of base defense — a system that was portable and could be easily operated by service members in an operational setting.

In record time, the system was designed and built, with a source that uses high-power electromagnetic bursts to instantly disable swarms of small drones — and they named it THOR.

Speaking to the effectiveness of the system, Capt. James Wymer, THOR deputy program manager, had this to say.

“Our recent field assessment had an almost 90% effectiveness by operators in the field, who had just been trained on the system,” Wymer said. “THOR is an early demonstrator, and we are confident we can approach a 100% kill rate by refining the hardware and improving operator training.”

As the dangers from drone swarms evolve, leaders from across the Department of Defense are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like THOR, will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats.

Counter Swarm High Power Weapon

What is it?

THOR is a counter-swarm electromagnetic weapon the Air Force Research Laboratory developed for defense of airbases. The system provides non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets. It operates from a wall plug and uses energy to disable drones.

THOR, a first of its kind system, stows completely in a 20-foot transport container, which can easily be transported in a C-130. The system can be set up within 3 hours and has a user interface that has been designed to require minimal user training. The overall cost to develop the technology was approximately $15 million dollars.

How does it work?

The system uses high power microwaves to cause a counter electronic effect. A target is identified, the silent weapon discharges in a nanosecond and the impact is instantaneous.

Why is it important?

Drones are becoming more pervasive every day. Rather than being used as innocuous hobby systems, drones can be employed as weapons intended to cause great harm at long standoff ranges. As they become more prolific and technically mature it is imperative that there be a safe way to protect airbases against these threats.

There are several drone negating systems available: guns, nets and laser systems. THOR looks to extend the range to effect and decrease the engagement time over these other deterrent devices.

As the dangers from drone swarms evolve, leaders from across the Department of Defense are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like THOR, will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats.

THOR is a prototype Directed Energy weapon used to disable the electronics in drones and was specifically engineered to counter multiple targets – such as a drone swarm – with rapid results.

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