Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 14

TECH BRIEFS
Hardening Unmanned Aerial Systems Against High-Power Microwave
Threats in Support of Forward Operations
Counter-UAS (C-UAS) weapons utilizing pulsed high-power microwave (HPM) energy pose a
significant problem for UAS in offensive and defensive combat roles by causing electromagnetic
interference (EMI) that can produce effects ranging from upset to system damage.
Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL
U
nmanned Aerial Systems
(UAS) continue to play an
increasing role across the spectrum
of military operations. Advances in
human-machine teaming, additive
manufacturing, power cell density,
and autonomy will position these
systems to become an integral part of
missions that fall inside an adversary's
operational reach in the near future.
The global power projection capability
of the United States, largely unchallenged
since the end of the Cold War, is
increasingly in question. State adversaries
are rapidly developing and extending the
range of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD)
capabilities, while seeking inexpensive
counters to exquisite US systems.
Consequently, the US will likely be forced
to operate within the reach of its enemies
in the very near future. In this context, the
execution and defense of rapid-deployable,
distributed forward operations will be
essential. The Airpower Vistas Research
Task Force (AVRTF) 2017, comprised of
students from the Air War College and Air
Command and Staff College, was tasked
by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force with
detailing the scope of these anticipated
threats in 2025 to forward operations and
operating locations across the Combatant
Commands. While unmanned aerial
systems (UAS) will play an increasing and
integral role in these operations, their
vulnerability to counter-UAS weapons
utilizing high power microwaves (HPM)
must be explored and mitigated.
Defining this unique problem set
requires looking two steps ahead in
the development and implementation
of UAS and C-UAS technology. The
capability of UAS to fill greater combat
roles within an adversary's operational
reach is being recognized and developed
at several Department of Defense
14 FEBRUARY 2023
Pulse entry through
aperture
Back door coupling
to components and
connections
Front door coupling
to antenna
Pulse entry through
outer mold line
The EMI energy that reaches the target induces effects by coupling to the component in one of two
ways. " Front door " coupling occurs when energy enters the system directly through a normally
utilized input device, such as an antenna. " Back door " coupling is the entrance of energy into the
system by the field of electric potential that surrounds it.
institutions, including the Air Force
Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Sandia
National Laboratory (SNL). Advancements
in automation, power cell capacity,
additive manufacturing, and swarming
algorithms position UAS as a formidable
and highly flexible part of operations
ranging from ISR to attacking air, ground,
and maritime targets. Counter-UAS
(C-UAS) technology is also in rapid
development and includes weapons that
disrupt the electromagnetic spectrum.
High power microwave weapons use
intentional electromagnetic interference
(EMI) to disrupt, damage, or destroy
electronic systems. Unlike other directed
energy (DE) weapons, HPM are not
attenuated greatly by atmospheric
obstacles such as clouds, rain and fog.
While currently expensive to develop, the
cost-per-shot of these systems is relatively
low. Unlike lasers, they typically have a
wide aperture and are of particular use
as area weapons against electronics.
These characteristics make HPM
systems ideal for use against UAS being
utilized either individually or in swarms.
C-UAS systems that use HPM have been
just out of reach for decades, as the
massive power requirements for such
weapons have been impractical. Recent
advances in this field, however, have
produced capable systems that, if used
in an offensive posture, can pose a threat
to defensive UAS constructs. Therefore,
the US cannot continue to increase the
role of UAS without likewise considering
their vulnerabilities to HPM weapons.
This work was done by Major
Coningsby J. Burdon for the Air
University. For more information,
download the Technical Support
Package (free white paper) at
mobilityengineeringtech.com/tsp
under the Unmanned Vehicles &
Robotics category. AFIT-0006
UNMANNED SYSTEMS SPECIAL REPORT
https://www.mobilityengineeringtech.com/tsp

Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023

Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - Cov1
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - Cov2
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 1
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 2
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 3
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 4
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 5
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 6
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 7
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 8
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 9
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 10
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 11
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 12
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 13
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 14
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 15
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 16
Unmanned Systems Special Report. February 2023 - 17
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