BAE: Microwave on Deck Could Down Drones
Defense contractor BAE Systems is developing a new microwave for naval clients, and it isn't for the galley. Its High Powered Microwave deck-mounted array is designed to target incoming air or surface targets with microwave radiation, disrupting their electronics and rendering them useless.
BAE first confirmed this project to Wired Magazine in 2011. "BAE Systems is developing the High-Powered Microwave (HPM) to provide a means to shut down small boat engines at tactically significant ranges," a spokeswoman wrote, adding that it could be extended to cover "a variety of platforms including ships, unmanned aerial vehicles and missile payloads." Seven years later, reports the Drive, the technology is still moving forward for naval applications, if perhaps under the radar relative to the well-publicized AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS).
"We've had some testing to show that it's actually effective against targets in a non-maritime environment, and we can certainly bring this to the maritime warfighter as well," a BAE spokesman told Naval Recognition earlier this month. "You emanate a pulse from this [antenna] to the area of interest and you can very rapidly disrupt electronics."
The original idea was to develop a wide-beam array that would target a swarm of small boats all at once, destroying their engine electronics, according to reporting by Aviation Week. The latest iteration - as shown at the recent Surface Naval Association annual gathering - would be mounted on a standard gun mount and would swung into position to engage the target with a directed beam, in much the same manner as a chain gun or Phalanx cannon.
Like laser weapons systems, the microwave device would have two key advantages over these traditional weapons: a very low cost per shot and a very deep magazine. In addition, it would offer a less-lethal way to engage a target in littoral areas. Laser energy weapons damage or destroy targets; BAE's microwave device would only disrupt the electronics within targets. And long term health effects aside, it would be less likely to be harmful to personnel.