The US military has awarded Eprius a contract worth $66.1 million to deliver prototypes of a new microwave weapon called Leonidas, capable of shooting down entire swarms of enemy drones in a single burst, while leaving friendly planes intact.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrated, small, inexpensive drones can pose a real threat on the battlefield that will only grow as technology advances. Off-the-shelf robotic aircraft have already proven invaluable for reconnaissance, target scouting, and even direct attack. Outside of war zones, they can also be a deadly nuisance if flown into airspace occupied by civilian aircraft.
A nightmare scenario is an attacking enemy with swarms of drones that can either overwhelm a location’s defenses or force the defenders to spend missiles costing millions of dollars each to destroy a drone costing only a few hundred.
To counter this threat, increasing attention is being paid to directed energy weapons, including lasers and microwaves. These systems come in a variety of sizes and levels of sophistication, but they all share the benefits of operating at the speed of light, being able to engage multiple targets, and using electricity for ammo at a ridiculously low cost. per turn.
An example of a directed energy weapon is the Leonidas High Power Microwave (HPM), which is funded under the Office of Rapid Capabilities and Technology’s Indirect Fire Protection-High Power Microwave Capability Program. critics (RCCTO) of the army. Leonidas has been in development for a few years and the new funding is intended to take the technology to prototypes that can be used in the field.
Like similar systems, Leonidas defends itself against drones by firing blasts of microwave energy that disrupt or destroy the unmanned aircraft’s electronics, sending it crashing to the ground. It can even carry cruise missiles.
The principle is quite simple, but the tricky part is determining the optimal waveform for the job. Previously, this required changing a lot of hardware, but Leonidas uses software-driven phased networking, which makes it very easy to reconfigure and requires a smaller team than usual to operate.
According to Epirus, Leonidas has the ability to precisely target a single drone, form a wall of microwaves to stop a swarm, protect specific areas of the sky, or configure itself to allow friendly drones to operate while eliminating enemies. enemies in the same vicinity. It is also an open architecture, easily scalable, and designed to maintain safe zones to avoid harming humans.
“Time and time again, we have seen that current air defense systems are ill-equipped to deal with the threat of autonomous drone swarms,” said Ken Bedingfield, CEO of Epirus. “This contract with the RCCTO brings a new counter-swarm capability to UAS combat with our cost-effective, modular and scalable Leonidas systems. As the threat environment continues to evolve, our capabilities will evolve as well, ensuring that the U.S. military is equipped with effective countermeasures against electronic threats in the near term and on the horizon for decades to come.”
The video below is about Leonidas.