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C4iSR: Air

US Air Force awards Raytheon high-power microwave device contract

25 September 2019
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Raytheon's Phaser high-powered microwave device has been demonstrated to take down group 1 and 2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Source: Raytheon

Key Points

  • The US Air Force awarded Raytheon a contract for in-field experimentation with its high-power microwave system
  • The system can be used to take down UAVs by disrupting or permanently damaging their electronics

The US Air Force (USAF) on 23 September awarded Raytheon a USD16.2 million contract for one prototype Phaser high-power microwave (HPM) system, according to a Pentagon statement.

Raytheon's HPM system uses directed energy to take down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Don Sullivan, Raytheon missile systems' directed energy chief technologist, told Jane's on 24 September that the HPM specifically uses an electric field effect to disrupt or permanently damage the target aircraft's electronics. This, he said, is in contrast to a high-energy laser (HEL) system, which uses fibre laser to take out individual targets via a narrow beam.

The HPM's wide beam, similar to a radar, can be used to take down multiple UAVs at once, making it effective against swarm attacks. Sullivan said the range of the HPM is classified.

The USAF contract provides for outside continental United States (OCONUS) field assessment for the purpose of experimentation, which includes, but is not limited to, 12 months of in-field operation by USAF personnel against UAV threats. Sullivan deferred comment to the USAF on where the Phaser would be deployed. The air force was unable to respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

The HPM is deployed from a 6 m box similar to a shipping container that can be transported. Sullivan said Raytheon has the technology to reduce that deployment device by half.

Sullivan said Raytheon has used its HPM to take down class 1 and class 2 UAVs, which are in the class of hobbyist quadcopters and the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma tactical UAV, respectively.

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