WASHINGTON — The U.S. is deploying a drone disabling microwave weapon overseas for the first time.
The Pentagon announced that it has awarded a $16.28 million contract to Raytheon for a prototype high-power microwave weapons system.
The U.S. Air Force will deploy the weapon overseas at an unspecified location for a year-long assessment.
The system, called PHASER, can disable drones weighing less than 55 pounds that fly at altitudes of 1,200 to 3,500 feet and speeds of 115 to 230 miles per hour.
According to Popular Mechanics, these include drones like the RQ-11 Raven and ScanEagle.
PHASER projects radio frequencies in a conical beam that can disrupt or destroy a drone's internal systems. It is an electric-field effect rather than a thermal one, but the results are instantaneous.
The Drive reports that targeted drones either fall out of the sky or initiate a pre-programmed emergency procedure.
The weapon has anti-swarm potential, having been designed to counter groups of drones simultaneously.
It also has an unlimited magazine that can help repel sustained attacks from multiple groups of drones.
Fox News reports that the move appears timely due to the recent drone strikes on two oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia.
However, according to Raytheon's chief technologist for direct energy Don Sullivan, the plan has been in the works since late last year.
Around 20 drones and cruise missiles were used to carry out the Saudi oil attacks, and according to Popular Mechanics, some of the drones may have been small enough to be disabled by PHASER.
The HPM system, however, is not known to work on cruise missiles, says the Air Force and Raytheon.