It’s called Leonidas, and it can neutralize a whole swarm of drones in one go. This new microwave weapon, which seems to come from a science fiction film, developed by the company Epirus Inc., also allows to target a single drone within a group with an impressive precision.
Since the rise of consumer drones, several anti-drone weapons – such as radio frequency jammers or long-range net cannons – have been proposed, but the latter are generally less effective against military drones. Indeed, the latter are often protected against radio interference, either by means of radio systems resistant to interference, or by having the capacity to operate autonomously, without radio link with an operator.
The Leonidas system produced by Epirus, an American start-up, therefore takes a different approach. The device emits a beam of high power microwaves which overloads the drone’s electronics and causes it to fall. While existing microwave guns are mostly as large as a shipping container, Leonidas fits in the back of a pickup and can be controlled with great precision.
A success rate of 100% …
” Our systems give us the ability to widen or narrow the beam in any direction to neutralize enemy targets, and nothing else Says Leigh Madden, CEO of Epirus. The company is also working on a smaller version of the weapon, which could be carried by operators on the ground.
In a demonstration for a US government client in February 2021, Leonidas shot down 66 out of 66 targets (drones) – 100% success. In some tests it shot down several drones at once, and in others it targeted one while leaving adjacent drones intact, demonstrating unexpected precision for such a system.
Leonidas is based on an array of solid state emitters composed of gallium nitride. Used initially for military radars and more recently in 5G communication systems, these transmitters are more compact than traditional radar devices and can be individually controlled to direct the microwave beam with great precision.
Justin Bronk, of the RUSI defense think tank in London, notes that while microwaves may be more acceptable than guns or missiles in defending populated areas, great precision is needed. ” In urban areas there is a risk of damaging the electrical infrastructure or burning out people’s electronic devices. », He explains.
This technology promises to protect military and civilian infrastructure, such as airports and stadiums. It could help counter massive drone attacks, such as the one that shut down the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in 2019. Many countries, including China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom, are developing drones capable of attacking in swarms with the aim of overwhelming existing defenses with their numbers. High power microwaves could therefore offer the best protection against this type of attack.