The US Air Force will give the THOR enemy drone weapon its hammer

Leidos counter-drone

The US Air Force considers its microwave-shooting weapon against large swarms of enemy drones so successful that it’s now doubling down to enhance it further. So in addition to its so-called THOR anti-drone system, the Air Force is out to develop an electronic, craft-smashing hammer to complete the thematic program.

Air Force Research Laboratory developing new generation anti-drone weapon to match its mighty THOR

Bids are out to all qualified organizations to join the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in producing a new-generation weapon to zap enemy drones. Its Directed Energy Directorate is seeking partners to help develop a counter-electronics weapon against hostile uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV). The objective for that program is to go beyond the high-powered microwave force of its Tactical High-Power Operational Responder – aka THOR.

“The new prototype will be called Mjolnir, after the mythical Norse god, Thor’s hammer,” said Amber Anderson, THOR program manager in an AFRL statement. “Because THOR was so successful, we wanted to keep the new system’s name in the THOR family”

Anderson says the triumph of the project that created the THOR demonstrator was so resounding that the AFRL figured it had to keep the R&D roll it was on going. 

“After a successful two-year testing campaign, the AFRL team has learned a lot about the benefits of the technology and how it can be improved,” she said.

Stored in a single cargo container, the THOR system is designed for easy transportation and fast deployment. The unit can be set up by two people within three hours, requires minimal training to operate, and gets its anti-drone bang “from a simple wall plug,” according to the AFRL. Once set up, the demonstrator generates a powerful microwave field that destroys the electronics systems of enemy UAVs that make the mistake of getting too close.

Mjolnir: easier done than said

The Mjolnir project will rely on the same technology, but add on significant improvements in capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness that have been made since THOR was developed. 

To do that, AFRL is accepting proposals from military, public, and private business candidates wanting to participate in bringing the new weapon frying enemy drones to life. The target date for delivery is sometime in 2023.

“As the danger from drone swarms evolves, all services are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like Mjolnir, will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats,” said Adrian Lucero, THOR deputy program manager, of the need to work beyond THOR’s capacities. “We are releasing an opportunity for businesses in the directed energy field, to help us build the follow-on system.”

Given the undeniable success it had with THOR, it’s easy to understand why the AFRL believes it can match that with Mjolnir, and even do better.

Its first challenge in that, however, is to teach people how Mjolnir is pronounced.

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