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High Power electromagnetic technologies enable Electromagnetic Weapons on Aircrafts, combat drones and missiles

A high-powered microwave weapon (HPM) is type of Directed Energy Weapon (DEW)  for employing radio frequency energy against a variety of targets. They are principally counterelectronic weapons and could be used to destroy any enemy electronic systems, including radars, computer systems and communications infrastructures. Electromagnetic weapons can destroy, intercept or jam approaching enemy missiles, drones, rockets or aircraft at much lesser cost than firing an interceptor missile which can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.


HPM systems offer military commanders the options of: Speed-of-light, all weather attack of enemy electronic systems, Area coverage of multiple targets with minimal prior information on threats characteristics, Surgical strike (damage, disrupt, degrade) at selected levels of combat, Minimum collateral damage in politically sensitive environments, Simplified pointing and tracking and eep magazines (meaning long operating time without replenishment) and low operating costs.


HPM systems can be Narrowband or Ultra Wideband type, depending on the bandwidth of the transmitted waveform. Many systems, like those based on commercial radar systems are narrow band or have transmitted bandwidths of 1% or less. Narrow band systems can couple to systems very efficiently if the frequency is close to a system resonance. Extremely short pulse systems are known as ultra-wideband systems. UWB systems have instantaneous bandwidths, by some definitions, greater than 100%. Because of the large spread in bandwidth the energy in a given bandwidth (e.g., that covered by a system resonance) is small.


EMP weapons are of the ultra wideband type that generate high power narrow pulse fields, with pulse widths narrower than 100 ps,which may be repetitively pulsed up to 1 million pulses per second. The frequency content in these weapons is typically up to 3 Ghz.


Electromagnetic pulses can enter the enemy system through various paths. Some signals will induce currents on external conductors—such as wires and antennas—which then go through to the systems interior. Other signals may couple to exterior metals which reradiate to the internal conductors. Signals can also enter through any holes in the exterior of the system. Once the signals have entered the system they can disrupt it either temporarily or cause permanently damage.


Raytheon was awarded a $10,000,000 contract for identifying and developing HPEM technologies in May of this year. This technology could complement and enhance mission effectiveness of the cyber and EW communities, said the Department of Defense press release.


These experiments explore parameters including carrier frequency, pulse repetition frequency, and incident power density in order to determine the ideal ratio for electronic warfare operations. This allows them to determine the optimal antennae size that also fits portability requirements and has a strong, long-range, power density. The goal of these experiments is to maximize the amount of electromagnetic energy that makes it to the enemy target, according to Raytheon.


Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)’s HPEM technology development

The 2016 funding for Air Force High Power Microwave Development and Integration was increased  to $16.8 million. Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., released a broad agency announcement  (BAARVKD20140003) for the  High Powered Electromagnetics (HPEM) Research Program. It also wants to integrate HPEM with  cyber warfare and traditional electronic warfare. Recently there has been move to Cyber electromagnetic activities , activities leveraged to seize, retain, and exploit an advantage over adversaries and enemies in both cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, while simultaneously denying and degrading adversary and enemy use of the same and protecting the mission command system.


The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate’s (RD) High-Powered Electromagnetics Division (RDH) is interested in receiving proposals from all offerors to continue the advancement of HPEM technology and enhance the state-of-the-art and scientific knowledge in Directed Energy technology. The program, will be open for five years and will be worth about $140 million over that period.

a.Technical Area 1: “HPEM Transition”

The objectives of this Technical Area are to conduct studies, analyze, and develop concepts that support the transitional efforts of HPEM systems, components and information to the user community. This includes the feasibility of integration and development of HPEM technology into a platform. Conducts trade-space studies and demonstrates the proof of concept through analysis and testing.

b.Technical Area 2: “HPEM Cyber/Electronic Warfare (EW) Applications”

The objectives of this Technical Area are to identify and develop HPEM technologies with the potential to complement and enhance mission effectiveness of the cyber and electronic warfare communities. This includes the study, analysis, and formulation of scenarios in which HPEM can be used for cyber or EW applications, conduct experiments, and demonstrate innovative concepts.

c. Technical Area 3: “HPEM Effects”

The objectives of this Technical Area are to collect and analyze empirical effects data against a broad range of electronics, and to conduct basic research on the mechanisms of HPEM effects at the device, circuit, and system levels. Develop computational predictive tools based on qualitative effect mechanisms, collect empirical test data for validating predictive models, and further battle damage methodologies with respect to HPEM effects.


d. Technical Area 4: “Electromagnetics (EM) Weapons Technology”

The objectives of this Technical Area are to investigate, develop and ultimately transition new HPEM Weapon concepts, HPEM materials and components, and compact pulsed power topologies. Work in this area shall include, but is not limited to:

1) the development of compact repetitive pulsed power topologies complementary to HPEM source development, as well as the development and transition of new component and pulsed power technology with pervasive applications to a breadth of EM sources,

2) the investigation of the effects of high-energy particle beams and their associated radiation on electronic systems,

3) the development of new techniques and sources to create weak and strongly ionized plasmas using ultrashort pulse lasers (USPL), as well as demonstrating the generation of militarily relevant plasmas with USPL across a variety of wavelengths and

4) the examination of the physics of various types of plasmas generated by HPEM, the interaction of these plasmas with materials and the feasibility of generating relevant plasmas with compact systems, and

5) the development of advanced HPM materials for sources, such as anodes and cathodes, to be utilized in HPM relevant research.

e. Technical Area 5: “Numerical Simulation”

The objectives of this Technical Area are to develop and continuously improve the world-class simulation tools within RDH, which enable the effective development of modern HPEM systems, and the continuous development, maintenance, and interface expansion of the Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) software. There are several other known areas of portfolio expansion.


Work in this area shall include: 1) The development of next generation particle-in-cell tools, including the use of geometry confirming meshes and codes optimized for advanced, modern computer architectures, 2) the development and maintenance of frameworks, automatic optimization and uncertainty quantification (UQ) methods as well as tools for end to end simulation of all types of directed energy systems related to the directed energy high performance computing software applications institute (DE HSAI), 3) develop the capability to conduct first principles material modeling based on quantum mechanics and density functional theory (DFT) for improved component performance within HPEM systems, and 4) develop an automated, robust validation and verification program for all of the above software application areas.


f. Technical Area 6: “NextGen HPEM”

The objective of this Technical Area is to develop the source and antenna technologies capable of meeting the platform and capability constraints of potential HPEM capability concepts. Work in this area shall include the development of broadband high power amplifiers, tunable high power oscillators, and broadband antennas that can be used to develop empirical radio frequency (RF) effects over a broad range of frequencies, pulse lengths, pulse repetition frequencies, and power densities. Orchestrating the development of HPEM sources to meet Technical Performance Measures/Metrics leading to technology maturation from concept demonstration to laboratory demonstration is a key tenet of this Technical Area’s focus.


Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)’s “HPEM EFFECTS ANALYSIS” program

Raytheon has won a three-year, $15 million contract to analyze high-power electromagnetic systems for the Air Force in an effort to determine how they can integrate with airborne platforms. The Air Force views high-power electromagnetics as a potential disruptor to adversaries’ electronic systems. HPES systems can send signals that shut down an adversary’s computers without effects on humans, Air Force Research Laboratory executive Mary Lou Robinson said in March 2016. Contract work will also include simulations to assess how an integrated platform performs in mission operations.


The mission of the High Power Electromagnetics (HPEM) Effects Program is to characterize the effectiveness of potential HPEM weapons systems by developing and running effectiveness tools, and generating vulnerability data to feed those tools. The vulnerability data consists of Probability of Effect (Pe) curves for electronic systems when subjected to an HPEM waveform that results in disruption to or failure of normal operation of the systems. In addition, the HPEM Effects Program investigates the fundamental mechanisms resulting in these disruptions or failures, in order to predict and model the effects.


AFRL/RDH needs to investigate and advance the state-of-the-art knowledge in HPEM effects. The effort envisioned herein seeks to research HPEM effects on analog and digital electronic systems, and to perform effects testing on such systems, as well as to build, run and validate models from basic physics models up to the engagement and mission levels that can be used to predict the effectiveness of HPEM weapons against electronic targets.






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International Defense Security & Technology (December 9, 2022) High Power electromagnetic technologies enable Electromagnetic Weapons on Aircrafts, combat drones and missiles. Retrieved from
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"High Power electromagnetic technologies enable Electromagnetic Weapons on Aircrafts, combat drones and missiles." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed December 9, 2022.
"High Power electromagnetic technologies enable Electromagnetic Weapons on Aircrafts, combat drones and missiles." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: [Accessed: December 9, 2022]

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