THOR – Hammering Down Drone Attacks

thor
THOR – Air Force Directed Energy Directorate

A new technology designed to destroy drones is called THOR – Tactical High-power Operational Responder – created by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). It can destroy just one, or an entire fleet of drones at once. An animated video of its capabilities was released on June 8, 2021.

The system output is powerful radio wave bursts, which offer a greater engagement range than bullets or nets, and its effects are silent and instantaneous.

Amber Anderson, THOR program manager (via The Defense Post)

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Drones have become a significant problem for the US Military. No, not the hobbyist type of drones, but the ones used by enemies who target US military facilities. Unmanned drones armed with explosives can take out buildings, runways, aircraft, vehicles, and people in the blink of an eye. THOR is a “counter swarm electromagnetic” weapon created for the defense of air bases.

The dangers of drones – Screenshot via AFRL
THOR engages the swarm silently at the speed of light, dropping them out of the sky. Screenshot via AFRL

As technology advances for the bad guys, so it is also advancing to defeat them.

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…

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.

AFRL

It only takes two people to set up the weapon, and it’s easily transported. The weapon discharges at the speed of light and it’s cheap compared to other technologies. Protecting military bases with this technology will be more effective for a engaging a fleet of explosive-laden drones than the current range of anti-drone capabilities.

The US Army is also considering investing in THOR, along with other technology for their program “Indirect Fire Protection Capability.”

Army Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the director for Hypersonics, Directed Energy Space and Rapid Acquisition, who oversees the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, paid a visit to Kirtland AFB Feb. 11 to watch THOR in action and to meet with its developers.

“The Army’s directed energy capabilities will need to provide a layered defense with multiple ways to defeat incoming threats,” Thurgood said. “High energy lasers kill one target at a time, and high powered microwaves can kill groups or swarms, which is why we are pursuing a combination of both technologies for our Indirect Fire Protection Capability rapid prototyping effort. Our partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory gave the Army a running start on the high power microwave mission, and we look forward to continuing to advance these capabilities to protect our warfighters.”

AFRL in February

The following is the animated video released by the Air Force Research Lab on June 18:

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Featured photo: The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power Operational Responder developed for airbase defense. Photo credit: AFRL Directed Energy Directorate

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