Movie fans are anticipating the new "Avengers: Endgame" film -- even the U.S. Air Force, which recently named its new experimental counter-drone program after an Avengers superhero: Thor.
The Tactical High-power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR, is in developmental testing to take out smaller drones at the speed of light, according to officials with the Air Force Research Lab.
"This is designed for base defense," said 2nd Lt. James Wymer, a research physicist for the program with the Air Force Research Lab's technology directorate. Military.com spoke with Wymer and Steve Langdon, chief of the high-powered microwave technologies branch of the AFRL, during the Defense Department Lab Day at the Pentagon on Thursday.
"What it does is that it sends out that high-power, short pulse of microwaves that disable the electronics on the system itself," Wymer said of the non-kinetic counter-drone weapon, which looks like a standard Conex box with a satellite dish strapped to it.
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Wymer explained that the THOR system, in partnership with Verus Research and BAE systems, is complementary with other counter-unmanned aerial vehicle systems, such as the anti-drone gun known as DroneDefender. But THOR can instantly disable a number of drones that are closing in from all sides.
"It's rapidly pulsed, so you don't need to dwell on target [and] hit it for a long period of time. You just hit it once ... and continue to hit other targets as well," he said.
THOR is also mobile; it can turn 360 degrees and move up and down to send pulses out. Currently, THOR is in the integration stage and has had some preliminary testing. Researchers will conduct a full demonstration test in September, Langdon said.
"Effects testing was accomplished at Kirtland Air Force Base, [New Mexico], and that's where we'll probably do [follow-on] testing as well," he said. "White Sands Missile Range is probably where we want to go" in the fall.
THOR can be broken down enough to be transported via C-130 Hercules or other types of cargo airlift. Researchers displayed a scale model -- roughly 1/16th the size of the actual 20-foot THOR system -- on Thursday.
The same program office years back tested the Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project, known as CHAMP. CHAMP, an aerial system, was first tested in 2012 to take out multiple targets with a non-lethal microwave blast to disable electronics such as computers or communication devices.
When asked why researchers went with the "THOR" acronym, Langdon said, "It's a cool name."