U.S. Develops ‘Phaser’ To Shoot Terrorist Drones Out Of The Sky

The device can take out swarms of weaponized ISIS drones

Illustration: Tara Jacoby
Nov 16, 2016 at 1:41 PM ET

The United States Army has given its contractors permission to show off a new weapon: a microwave gun that stops terrorist drones.

Last month, Kurdish forces shot down an ISIS-operated hobby drone — the same sort of craft the terrorist organization had been using for reconnaissance for months. But when fighters tried to dismantle and examine the drone, it exploded, causing what was is believed to be the first two deaths from an ISIS weaponized drone.

A few days later at a press event, Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, director of the DOD’s Joint Improvised Threat-Defeat Organization, said that U.S. forces were implementing anti-drone technology with “a sense of urgency.”

More Here’s The Gun The U.S. Government Uses To Blast Drones

Now we have a better idea of what that technology looks like. On November 11, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on an experimental weapon with a name straight out of Star Trek: the Phaser. Developed by Raytheon, this trailer-mounted dish blasts the sky with high-power microwaves. Accompanying radars detect and track a target, guiding the Phaser’s beam, which can be set to destroy or disrupt electronic devices in its path.

Raytheon held a live-fire demonstration of the weapon in Fall of 2013 at Fort Still, Oklahoma, stopping small drones dead in the sky. The company finally shared video of that test with Aviation Week last week, shortly after the Department of Defense cleared the footage. The Pentagon kept some details, like the effective range, classified.

While the video only shows the device targeting individual drones one at a time, Raytheon revealed at a media event in June that the Phaser can take out entire drone swarms scattered across a wide area, throw off guided missiles, and even stop cars. The company says the current model is about half the size of the one used in the 2013 test, which would make it about 10 feet long.

The Phaser is a vast improvement over the sort of point-and-shoot weapons government agencies and troops are currently using. These devices rely on lasers or electromagnetic waves that must make a direct hit on a drone, making it difficult to stop a drone fleet or to hit a particularly fast and agile drone.

Of course, the Phaser wont just help the Army fight against terrorist drones. Since the weapon affects many electronics, it’s could also be used to handicap an entire command center.