Defense at the speed of light

Directed energy systems down drones in US Air Force demonstration

U.S. Air Force personnel used Raytheon Technologies-built microwave systems and high-energy lasers to bring down dozens of small drones during a recent exercise. The target drones were flying both alone and in swarms.

Airmen took control of both the microwave and laser systems after just one day's training. They used an Xbox-style controller to direct the laser and a joystick to operate the high-power microwave in real-world scenarios at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

“Countering the drone threat requires diverse solutions,” said Stefan Baur, a vice president at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a business of Raytheon Technologies. 

The HEL system, paired with Raytheon Technologies’ Multi-spectral Targeting System of sensors, uses invisible beams of light. Mounted on a small, all-terrain, militarized vehicle, the system detects, identifies, tracks and engages drones. 

Raytheon Technologies' HPM uses microwave energy to disrupt drone guidance systems. High-power microwave operators can focus the beam to bring down drone swarms. With a consistent power supply, an HPM system can provide virtually unlimited protection.

Using directed-energy systems to down drones

The two systems complement one another. HPM can instantly defeat a swarm. HEL shoots down drones one at a time. If the laser is occupied and there's another target coming, HPM can bring it down.

The company's HEL and HPM were the only directed energy systems that participated in the demonstration, which was part of the Air Force Directed Energy Experimentation campaign. The White Sands Missile Range exercise follows a similar Army-directed energy exercise held in 2017.

“After decades of research and investment, we believe these advanced directed energy applications will soon be ready for the battlefield,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, a vice president at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies.