Resilience and variation in meeting the growing counter-drone threat

Source of the image :

The proliferation of a variety of types of uncrewed aerial systems, adoption of swarming tactics and enabling technologies, and the demonstration of their disruptive military effects in Ukraine as well as other recent conflicts has demonstrated the diversity of the nature of the drone threat to both fixed positions and mobile forces. It has also placed a growing premium on innovation in and development of an equally diverse and frequently layered set of counter-drone solutions to meet the expanding threat of single drones and swarms in different contexts at an affordable cost.

Two such innovative counter-drone weapons reached milestones or were revealed in late May.

THOR: A powerful hammer for point defense

On 18 May, the US Air Force successfully tested its Tactical High-power Operational Responder high-powered microwave weapon—known as THOR—against swarms of multiple drone targets.  According to Adrian Lucero, THOR program manager for the US Air Force Research Lab, “the THOR team flew numerous drones at the THOR system to simulate a real-world swarm attack.

THOR has never been tested against these types of drones before, but this did not stop the system from dropping the targets out of the sky with its non-kinetic, speed -of-light High-Power Microwave, or HPM, pulses.” THOR is designed as a point-defense weapon that uses HPMs to degrade, disrupt, or destroy a systems’ or  swarm of systems’ electronics.

The USAFRL THOR system. Source: AFRL

Defense for forces on the move

Small and commercial drones have been used effectively in both reconnaissance and strike missions against forward operating forces throughout much of the war in Ukraine, creating or enhancing the challenges of force protecting for mobile forces.

One effort to meet this challenge was announced on 31 May during the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CANSEC) 2023 expo in Ottawa, Canada where GM Defense announced a partnership with Black Sage Technologies to integrate Black Sage’s Sawtooth counter UAS system on GM Defense’s Infantry Squad Vehicle.

A GM Defense Infantry Squad Vehicle at the IDEX Exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February 2023. Source: Nurkin

According to Black Sage’s website, “Sawtooth is a multi-mission short range air defense solution combining high performance sensors and effectors with the latest generation of automated command and control software.” It offers both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions, among many other features captured in the image below, such as the capacity to actively or passively detect threats and classify, track, and ID threats.

A graphic showing the features, capabilities, and values of the Sawtooth system. Source: Black Sage website Sawtooth product page

GM Defense President Steve DuMont highlighted the value this combination of an ISV and the Sawtooth system provide in “[outmaneuvering] increasingly complex threats from around the globe” and offering “greater flexibility to warfighters while continuing to develop mobility solutions that perform in diverse environments.”

An image of the Sawtooth system. Source: Black Sage website Sawtooth product page

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