The U.S Army has plans to develop a high-powered microwave weapon as a part of a broad counter-drone strategy. A microwave would short out the electronics of a drone in flight, causing it to crash. The weapon’s broad firing arc means it could take out many drones at once, defeating enemy drone swarms. The weapon is part of the service’s Indirect Fires Protection Capability (IFPC), a series of weapons designed to shoot down enemy artillery shells, rockets, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. IPFC will also include a 150-kilowatt laser weapon. The Pentagon has researched high powered microwave weapons for years, but the threat of drone swarms may have presented it with the perfect opportunity.
Radiation from microwaves can disrupt or destroy electronic equipment exposed to them, “cooking” internal circuits much in the same way a fork or other metal objects placed in a microwave oven will cause the oven’s electronics to meltdown.
The military is preparing for the eventuality of facing swarms of suicide drones on the battlefield, each carrying explosive payloads or prepared to make a suicide attack.
Advantage of the microwave gun
First, they can “fire” microwaves in an arc defined by the radiating antenna, typically a “field of view” from several to tens of degrees. This allows the HPM to literally sweep the sky with radiation, frying everything in its path. This would be much more effective against large numbers of drones than jammers or even kinetic weapons like machine guns.
High powered microwave weapons have other advantages. Microwave radiation doesn’t care about the rain and other inclement weather. It doesn’t rely on individual shots of ammunition, and as long as the electrical generator is powered on, it will continue to “fire.”
If friendly forces are jammed or the microwave targeting system is disabled, the microwave can simply be pointed in the anticipated direction of attack and fry anything that wanders into its antenna field of view. Finally and most importantly, microwave weapons will fry anything that gets into range, and unlike jammers do not need to know the precise frequency of a drone’s control system.