The U.S. Air Force is testing a prototype anti-drone system in Africa, in what USAF officials characterized as, a “real-world setting.”  This is the next step in protecting American troops from the newest scourge on the battlefield. 

As first reported by Breaking Defense back in August, the new system is called the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR). It was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The system is designed to counter single or swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) by using microwaves. 

Stephen Langdon, chief of the High-Powered Microwave Technologies Branch of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, said that the “THOR is essentially a high-powered electromagnetic source that we put together to specifically defeat drones.”

The Air Force’s chief scientist, Richard Joseph, said the Air Force decided to test the THOR in Africa due to the increased use of drones on the continent. Additionally, the choice of Africa wouldn’t further escalate the already high tensions with Iran nor invite any countermeasures. 

“We have recently deployed a test system to Africa for base defense […] based on a microwave system. And the purpose is to be able to disrupt and destroy the performance of drones or swarms of drones,” Joseph said. 

“It’s been tested extensively, works remarkably well […] I’ve watched it in action and it’s really quite impressive.”

Both the Air Force and the Army are concerned with base defense in future conflicts, with the Air Force taking the lead in the drone-killing realm. Other potential defense measures include weapons, nets, and missiles. But the THOR system is reportedly giving base defenses the ability to engage drone swarms from farther and decrease the engagement time for the base defense. 

THOR uses high power electromagnetic microwaves to counter and fry electronic circuits. When a target is identified, THOR discharges with nearly instantaneous impact. The system can be used across a wide spectrum of airspace.