US Navy Wants To Test High-Power Microwave Weapon To Zap Drones In 2026

The US Navy wants to test its first high-powered microwave weapon on board a sea-faring vessel as early as 2026. Known as Project METEOR, the experimental weaponry will blast out beams of intense electromagnetic energy to fry the electronics of drones. 

METEOR will “provide capability with low cost-per-shot, deep magazine, tactically significant range, short time engagement for multi-target approach, dual deception and defeat capability,” according to United States Naval Institute News, citing the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget documents.

Microwave weapons are part of the US military’s interest in directed energy systems, a new breed of weapons that can damage targets without solid projectiles. Along with microwaves, this includes things like lasers, soundwaves, and even particle beams.

High-powered microwave weapons utilize a super high-frequency wave of electromagnetic energy to damage electronics. If used to target a drone, the flurry of waves would quickly render the equipment useless. Compared to missiles, bullets, and other flying packages of destruction, each shot is relatively cheap (at least in theory).

The push for microwave weapons and other directed energy systems is partially a response to the rise of low-cost drones, which have radically changed the nature of modern warfare, as shown by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the war in Gaza, and the Red Sea crisis. Cheap, modifiable, and easily accessible, new drone technologies can be used by small armies and guerilla groups to cause significant damage and disruption to even the world’s most robust militaries.

One of the most concerning threats is drone swarms that could coordinate dozens – perhaps even hundreds or thousands – of machines, in a coordinated attack. It’s likely this type of technology will become increasingly integrated with artificial intelligence (AI) in the years to come, further adding to the peril. 

Defending against this kind of enemy using conventional weaponry is costly, but directed energy weapons could promise to slash that price while remaining highly effective. 

“Directed energy is basically electromagnetic radiation, whether it’s light or RF [Radio frequency] energy, and therefore travels at the speed of light,” Dr Frank Peterkin, the Principal Director for Directed Energy in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said during a recent webinar, according to DefenseScoop.

“For those of you who haven’t looked up your physics books recently, for comparison, we talk about hypersonic threats being really, really fast — that’s somewhere in the 5 to 15 Mach range. The speed of light is about 100,000 times faster than anything we or anybody else is fielding with hypersonic systems. It’s really fast,” Peterkin added.

Other countries are also ramping up their directed energy weapons. The UK has recently shown off its DragonFire system, effectively a giant laser gun capable of shooting down airborne targets. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) released a video of the weaponry in action, claiming it can hit a coin-sized target from 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) away. 

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