Within the very actual and really up-to-date army conflict between armed drones and anti-drone know-how, the U.S. Air Drive has enlisted a mystical, hammer-wielding Norse god for the struggle.
The legendary Thor used his mighty conflict hammer “Mjolnir” to summon lightning and vanquish cinematic villains however the Air Drive says it may possibly additionally defend troops in opposition to the ever-increasing risk from so-called drone swarm assaults.
Pronounced “Me-yol-neer,” it’s the most recent model of a cutting-edge weapon system referred to as THOR — “Tactical Excessive-Energy Operational Responder” — that marks the most recent section within the fast-evolving period of drone warfare. The place as soon as the Pentagon had a near-monopoly on unmanned autos (UAVs) deployed for army functions, armies and even non-state terror teams world wide have entry to cheap, lethal drones that may be deployed on the battlefield.
The weapon of alternative isn’t a souped-up hammer high-powered microwaves that may scramble a drone’s inner circuitry, neutralizing complete flocks of UAVs by disorienting them. The method sidesteps the necessity to knock each single hostile drone out of the sky.
U.S. army planners have needed to play each offense and protection with drones, a lot of which may frustrate conventional missile defenses and evasive maneuvers. THOR was designed to save lots of the day for U.S. troops who could quickly discover themselves underneath assault by massive numbers of enemy unmanned aerial autos.
U.S. Air Drive officers expressed satisfaction with an early take a look at of THOR’s capabilities at an undisclosed location in Africa on the finish of 2020. The anti-drone system was set as much as simulate offering safety for a land base that may very well be susceptible to each drone and cruise missile assaults.
“As a result of THOR was so profitable, we needed to maintain the brand new system’s identify within the THOR household,” mentioned Amber Anderson, a mission supervisor on the Air Drive Analysis Laboratory.
The thought behind swarm assaults is to overwhelm defenses by hitting targets with extra attackers than they’ll take care of. Iran and its proxies are more and more utilizing drones — many very small in dimension — to strike U.S. and allied targets at sea and on land.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, has mentioned assaults from drones are the threats that concern him probably the most. Whereas U.S. air protection methods can take out bigger targets, equivalent to ballistic or cruise missiles, he mentioned the smaller drones are the issue.
“The smaller drone is the way forward for warfare and we have to get forward of that proper now,” Gen. McKenzie instructed Pentagon reporters in April.
Analysts say the July 29 drone assault on the Israeli-operated cargo ship MT Mercer Road that killed the captain and a crew member demonstrated the risk and the necessity to discover a answer. The U.S., Israel and main European nations mentioned the proof strongly pointed to Iran within the assault, though Tehran denied any function.
“There is no such thing as a justification for this assault, which follows a sample of assaults and different belligerent habits,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken later mentioned in a press release. “These actions threaten freedom of navigation by way of this important waterway, worldwide delivery and commerce and the lives of these on the vessels concerned.”
THOR and its offspring MJOLNIR aren’t modern like hypersonic missiles. The entire system is mainly a 20-foot-long cargo crate with a satellite tv for pc dish mounted on prime. However it may possibly take out a swarm of drones utilizing its directed vitality weapon to disable their crucial electronics. Each THOR and MJOLNIR have been particularly engineered to counter a number of targets “with fast outcomes,” Air Drive officers mentioned.
“The system output is highly effective radio wave bursts, which provide a larger engagement vary than bullets or nets,” Ms. Anderson mentioned. “Its results are silent and instantaneous.”
Air Drive officers say they’ve realized rather a lot about anti-drone know-how and the way it may be improved sooner or later.
“The MJOLNIR prototype will use the identical know-how [as THOR] however will add necessary advances in functionality, reliability and manufacturing readiness,” Ms. Anderson mentioned.
The Air Drive Lab’s Directed Power Division is on the lookout for companions to assist develop the counter-drone weapon system. The objective is to finally have MJOLNIR produced in massive portions, each to keep up the U.S. electromagnetic spectrum superiority and assist a fledgling business, officers mentioned.
“Because the hazard from drone swarms evolves, all companies are working intently to make sure rising applied sciences like MJOLNIR will likely be able to assist the wants of warfighters already engaged in opposition to these threats,” mentioned Adrian Lucero, the deputy program supervisor for THOR.
Air Drive officers anticipate supply of the prototype weapon in 2023.