This summer, research laboratories at the US Air Force and the US Navy are concluding what has become a five-year joint effort intended to develop and improve high-powered microwave technology, with one final session of testing in California.
Known as HiJENKS, the High-Powered Joint Electromagnetic Non-Kinetic Strike Weapon, utilizes microwave technology to disable the electronic systems of adversaries. Accordingly, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is conducting the final tests at the China Lake Naval Air Station, along with the Office of Naval Research.
The HiJENKS program is actually the successor to AFRL’s previous Counter-electronics High-Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project. This earlier iteration completed its final testing about ten years ago. According to AFRL High-Power Electromagnetics Chief, Jeffry Heggemeier, the program has not yet designated a platform for the weapon, as HiJENKS has a smaller footprint means they could investigate using it in a wider capacity.
At a recent press visit to the Kirtland Air Force base Directed Energy Directorate laboratory, in New Mexico, Heggemeier goes on to say, “We’ll start looking at more service-specific applications once we’ve done this test that demonstrates the technology.”
Furthermore AFRL is making notable progress on a more advanced version of another earlier system: the Tactical High Power Operational Responder. Also known as THOR, this system uses HPM tech to disable nearby drone swarms that could pose an immediate threat to a military base. The developing next-gen platform has been given the name Mjölnir, which is, of course, an homage to the hammer of the Norse God Thor (which, again, is the acronym for the project). For this project,AFRL awarded a $26 million contract to Leidos, in February, to deliver a prototype of Mjölnir by early 2024.
Heggemeier also comments, “We learned a lot of lessons from it being overseas, just working in that operational environment, having Air Force Security Forces airmen pulling the trigger and breaking it.”