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15 Feb, 2022 13:52

Defense tech firm unveils airborne microwave drone-killer

Startup that has ex-Pentagon chief on its board says it’s ground-based anti-drone weapon can be carried on a drone
Defense tech firm unveils airborne microwave drone-killer

A California-based defense venture said on Monday that its anti-drone weapon system can be made small enough to be carried by a heavy-duty drone. The microwave cannon is derived from a ground-based product, which the company tested last year. It is designed to take down swarms of enemy drones at a low cost.

The firm has unveiled the airborne version of Epirus’ Leonidas system, the Leonidas Pod. Together with its ground-based counterpart, it can be used to “create a layered defense forcefield” around a protected area, it said in a press release.

The “forcefield” in question is not a sci-fi contraption absorbing blaster beams. It is a description of an area where enemy electronic systems can be easily jammed or fried by the system.

Leonidas is a direct energy weapon that uses gallium nitride transistors rather than bulkier magnetron vacuum tubes, which have served as the backbone of active radar technology for decades. The solid-state components have emerged as a promising way to generate powerful microwaves for various applications in the mid-2000s. They offer a smaller physical size and an ability to “wind up” faster than the magnetron-based systems – “in minutes, not hours,” Epirus said of its airborne cannon.

The ground-based solution was successfully tested three times last year and is touted as significantly smaller and less power-hungry than competitors. It’s also software-targeted and can strike down enemy drones after telling them from friendly units in a group, according to Defense One.

Epirus was created in 2018 seeking to carve a niche in the fast-growing market for counter-drone solutions. It has tight connections to the US defense industry. Former defense secretary Mark Esper serves on its board of directors, while its advisory board includes John Abizaid, the former commander of the US CENTCOM.

Before joining Epirus in 2020, its CEO Leigh Madden headed Microsoft’s national security unit, pushing the tech firm, on behalf of which he offered more advanced cloud computing applications to the Department of Defense. Chief Financial Officer Ken Bedingfield held the same position with US defense behemoth Northrop Grumman before joining Epirus’ leadership around the same time as Madden. That year, the firm raised some $70 million in venture capital after signing a strategic supplier agreement with Northrop Grumman to give it access to Leonidas.

Last year, after the successful tests, the company partnered with General Dynamics Land Systems to integrate its system with the US Army Stryker combat vehicle, which is produced by the Michigan-based subsidiary of the defense giant General Dynamics.

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