In recent years, Iran has successfully deployed drones in military operations throughout the Middle East and, most recently, in supporting Russia in their attacks on Ukraine. These unmanned aerial vehicles have severely threatened American and allied forces on the ground. The US Department of Defense is looking for a solution to this problem, and it may have found one in the form of a new microwave weapon called Leonidas. But does it really have what it takes to counter Iranian drones?

The potential for drones to be used as a tool of warfare is a growing concern among the international community, especially with countries like Iran and Russia. Drones have been used for combat operations in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries and for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Iran has employed drones in its military operations since 2019 when it launched an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Since then, the country has increased its use of drones to carry out strikes against US-backed forces in Syria and Iraq. In fact, according to a report, Iran has “employed dozens of drones” against these targets since early 2020.

Furthermore, other countries have also taken steps toward improving their drone capabilities; Russia is reportedly developing an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) capable of carrying up to four missiles simultaneously. Meanwhile, Ukraine is attempting to establish itself as a major commercial and combat UAVs supplier by partnering with companies such as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

In order to counter these threats, the international community needs to take proactive measures that focus on strengthening existing laws that govern the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). For example, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recently adopted regulations prohibiting any armed UAV from entering another country’s airspace without prior authorization. 

Additionally, NATO allies should consider collaborating on initiatives to develop anti-drone technologies, such as microwave weapons or laser-based systems that can detect and destroy hostile drones at long ranges. These strategies are essential if we protect ourselves from malicious actors who seek to exploit unmanned technology for their own gain.

The Development of Leonidas

Through its innovative design, Leonidas promises to be more effective than traditional weapons in taking down hostile aerial threats.

At the core of Leonidas’ weapons system are electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). An EMP is an intense burst of energy that can temporarily disrupt or disable electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, and other electrical equipment. In terms of offensive counter-drone capabilities, an EMP emitted by Leonidas would cause disruption in the drone’s main engine board, navigation systems, and data link circuitry—all necessary components for successful flight operations. This would ultimately cause the drone to lose altitude or crash into the ground entirely.