Raytheon, a subsidiary of RTX, has secured a crucial role in national defense by being tasked with designing, building, and testing advanced high-power microwave antenna directed-energy systems for the Pentagon. The announcement, made by RTX, emphasizes the critical capabilities of these antennae, which are set to track and engage various airborne threats at the speed of light. Notably, these systems are engineered to be rugged and transportable, facilitating swift front-line deployment wherever needed.

Directed Energy Front-line Electromagnetic Neutralization and Defeat (DEFEND)

Under a $31.3 million contract awarded by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Raytheon is committed to delivering prototype equipment to both the U.S. Navy and Air Force. This initiative falls under the umbrella of the Directed Energy Front-line Electromagnetic Neutralization and Defeat (DEFEND) program, spanning a three-year agreement.

Colin Whelan, President of Advanced Technology at Raytheon, underscores the significance of non-kinetic defense systems in America’s national defense strategy. He states, “The new iterations of Raytheon’s high-power microwave systems are cost-effective and reliable solutions that operate at the speed of light – enabling our warfighters to defend against faster and more maneuverable threats.”

Raytheon’s Legacy in High-Power Microwaves

With nearly eight decades of expertise in utilizing high-power microwaves (HPM), Raytheon’s latest HPM prototype systems build upon the legacy of capabilities such as CHIMERA (Counter-Electronic High Power Microwave Extended Range Air Base Defense). In contrast to systems like Phaser and THOR, designed for close-range targets using vacuum tube technology, the planned DEFEND antennae signify a departure with their anticipated versatility and mobility.

Advantages of HPM Weapons

High-power microwave (HPM) weapons offer distinct advantages, including a rapid firing rate of less than a second and deep magazines capable of multiple firings in quick succession. These weapons can generate diverse effects on a target, ranging from destroying electronic components to degrading performance or forcing reboots. HPM systems utilize radio frequency (RF) and microwave energy to disrupt a target’s processors, delivered through the target’s antennas or unshielded wiring.

The Collaborative Contract and Anticipated Prototypes

The contract, based in Tucson, Arizona, involves collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, and the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Prototypes are expected to be delivered in fiscal years 2024 and 2026, marking a significant stride in advancing the nation’s defense capabilities against emerging threats.

By Impact Lab