Raytheon Demonstrates Directed Energy Weapons at Army Exercise

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Raytheon's high-power microwave system

Dept. of the Army

Raytheon recently took down 45 drones during an exercise using a high energy laser and a high-power microwave, company executives said March 20.

The company showed off its technology in early December at the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment, or MFIX, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“Already our adversaries, including our low-tech adversaries, have found ways to take advantage of these drone systems and modify them to be a significant threat to the warfighter and our coalition forces abroad,” said Evan Hunt, high-energy laser business development lead at Raytheon’s space and airborne systems division.

So far, the U.S. military has struggled to find a cost-effective way to neutralize these threats, he said during a briefing with reporters in Arlington, Virginia. However, directed energy platforms may be the key to solving that challenge.

During the demonstration, Raytheon displayed two separate technologies — a high energy laser atop a dune buggy and a high-power microwave — that when used in tandem could provide the military with an affordable and effective counter-drone capability, he said.

“High energy laser and high-power microwave are the two most cost-effective solutions when it comes to cost per engagement because they are pure energy,” Hunt said.

The laser offers users the ability to target a rogue drone precisely. The microwave has a larger beam and can take out multiple unmanned aerial vehicles at one time if they are flying in a path formation. The cost per engagement is a matter of cents, he noted. 

During the demonstration, the microwave system engaged multiple UAV swarms and downed 33 systems, two and three at a time. The laser, which is also known as HEL, was able to identify, track and destroy 12 drones, according to Raytheon.

Donald Sullivan, chief technologist for directed energy at Raytheon Missile Systems, said the high-power microwave can destroy the electronics on a drone within a second. The system — which fits inside a Connex box — weighs 18,000 pounds, but the company hopes to reduce that.

The high-energy laser system was outfitted on a Polaris MRZR vehicle which is popular among special operations forces, Hunt said. It works in tandem with the company’s multi-spectral targeting system.

“We’ve taken this sensor ball — which is made for … long-range, high-definition video — and married it to a very advanced target acquisition and track software specifically designed for high-energy laser weapon systems,” he said. The combination of those technologies provides enhanced capability for tracking and identifying small drones, he added.

The laser is not fully integrated on the vehicle because it uses lithium-ion batteries for power generation. Those can be recharged or swapped out after about 20 to 40 engagements, Hunt said. However, there are plans to eventually fully integrate the system onto a vehicle. It could potentially operate on a variety of platforms such as the Stryker or the joint light tactical vehicle, he noted.

Topics: Technology Tomorrow, Research and Development, Advanced Weapons, Electronics, Emerging Technologies

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