Leidos wins $26 million US Air Force counter-drone contract

Leidos counter-drone

US defense and security company Leidos Inc. has won a $26 million Air Force Research Laboratory contract to deliver its next-generation counter-drone system designed to neutralize attacks by both individual and swarming UAVs.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) said it had built THOR with support from Virginia-based Leidos with a contract to continue development of its Mjölnir counter-drone system, which uses microwave tech to take out hostile craft. The platform is based on the company’s earlier Tactical High-Power Operational Responder (THOR) prototype, which was billed as being as fast and easy to deploy as it was efficient in eliminating attacking UAVs.

During testing last year, the platform scored a 90% effectiveness rate, which Leidos says further fine-tuning can increase to 100%.

Leidos’s anti-drone asset detects approaching craft early enough to analyze the nature of the threats they pose. It then uses bursts of microwave energy to disable craft operating in swarms. 

The unit is stored in a single cargo container enabling fast ground deployment or transport aboard Air Force cargo planes. Once at its point of defense, it can be set up by two people within three hours, requires minimal training to operate, and generates the power needed to eliminate enemy UAVs from a simple wall plug.

Indeed, arguably the hardest part of using Leidos’s Mjölnir counter-drone system will be pronouncing its name, which is derived from the initial project’s mythical acronym.

“The new prototype will be called Mjölnir, the mythical Norse God Thor’s mighty hammer,” explained Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate. “Because THOR was so successful, we wanted to keep the new system’s name in the family.”

Mjölnir will retain THOR’s High Power Electromagnetics (HPS) technological punch and add improvements in capability, reliability, and manufacturing readiness. Work on the new iteration is slated to start this spring, with prototype delivery expected by 2023. 

Leidos will also design it to serve as the basis for future AFRL counter-drone systems. 

“Mjölnir will focus on creating a detailed blueprint for all future cUAS HPM systems with enhanced range and technology for detecting and tracking UASs,” said Lucero. “This will ensure the U.S maintains our electromagnetic spectrum superiority.”      

THOR deputy program manager, 1st Lt. Tylar Hanson, said the platform will be adaptable for use in numerous counter-drone scenarios, but will be commonly deployed to protect bases from increasingly sophisticated UAV attack capabilities.

“As the danger from drone swarms evolves, all services are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like Mjölnir will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats,” Hanson said.

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