🔷 Microwave Weapons

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 PODCAST ALERT! We spoke with Epirus CEO Andy Lowery about High Power Microwave (HPM) weapons and their innovative work in this emerging tech space. Grab the show where you get your content: SpotifyApplePandoraiHeartRadio, and even YouTube.

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High Power Microwave

Tech advancements and the proliferation of drone capabilities are challenging the air domain in ways that are so disruptive that they have inverted the cost imposition and are challenging the entire notion that the US military (and its Allies) can protect forces on the ground from attack via the air littorals.

The heart of the issue is that defending against the rapid cost and capability improvements of drones is often relegated to using exquisite weapons that were never designed to counter this threat. Or worse, having no defenses at all and hoping that a military position won’t get attacked.

The result: the extremely high cost of playing defense is simply no match for the extremely low cost of playing offense. To this point, the Navy expended $1 billion in weapons shooting down threats in the Middle East in the past 6 months.

Changing the Game

High-tech doesn’t win, and low-tech doesn’t lose—it’s all about the ‘right-tech.’

Right-tech is about creating and exploiting an asymmetric capability advantage—building a new strength and applying it directly to the opposition’s weakest point.

Enter high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. These are directed-energy weapons that emit concentrated bursts of electromagnetic energy and neutralize drones by disrupting their electronic systems.

While HPM has been in various stages of R&D for generations, the combination of key technological leaps is finally bringing this capability to the field. Epirus is a venture-backed defense tech startup leading the way with its flagship HPM product called Leonidas.

On the front end, Leonidas leverages a Gallium Nitride-based radar antenna array, the same tech that all next-gen AESA radars are moving to—including the new Patriot radar and the new F-35 radar.

On the back end, it uses solid-state electronics similar to the EA-18G Growler’s new jammer.

It's combined with software to create and adjust waveforms, like a radar jammer that gets rapid updates with new techniques. They also utilize neural networks (a type of AI) to analyze patterns and rapidly optimize the system’s performance.

The Result

Epirus’ Leonidas puts up a shield of energy that disables pretty much anything that flies into it.

Unlike laser systems or kinetic methods, which attack one target at a time, HPM can attack multiple drones simultaneously—a unique capability that’s particularly valuable against swarming drone attacks that typically overwhelm traditional defenses. And it does it for just a few dollars per shot.

Fun Fact: HPMs like Leonidas don’t fry electronics. They simply disrupt the flow of signals on the analog side of electronics, typically resulting in motors turning off and systems rebooting. This makes HPMs an ideal option for non-lethal drone defense around critical infrastructure, sporting events, etc.

Speeding to Field

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has led the way with these next-gen HPMs. Epirus recently delivered 4 prototypes to the Army for testing and also completed developmental testing.

These systems are part of the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) program, specifically the IFPC-HPM layer. Almost immediately after Epirus delivered the fourth system, the Army revealed Leonidas HPMs were being deployed ASAP to the Middle East.

The results of this prototype deployment will determine the Army’s next steps, but Epirus isn’t waiting. They have preemptively invested in a 100,000 sq ft factory and inventory to scale production.

What Now

While the Army is leading the way, the Navy is also interested in using Leonidas to protect ships from drone boats. They will be zapping boats off the coast of California in a naval exercise this summer.

There is so much more to unpack in the podcast. We dive deep into how HPMs work, the operational environment, and how to integrate HPMs into layered defenses—plus some myth-busting about copper tape.

Grab it on SpotifyApple, or even better, check it out on YouTube for all the pics and videos we spliced in so you get a good idea of what we’re talking about.

In That Number

25 knots

Electra’s blown-lift eSTOL test aircraft completed its first test flight. It took off in less than 170 feet and landed in under 114 feet, flying as slowly as 25 knots on takeoff and landing. Check out the video, it’s worth the click.


Since we’re talking directed energy weapons this week, who developed the first use of a directed energy weapon in combat?

A) China
B) Greece
C) Turkey

On the Radar

Ukraine is getting Swedish AEW&C jets. The 2 Saab 340 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) are part of Sweden’s largest aid package to date. Sweden only operates 2 of these, so it is donating one now and sourcing a backfill via a updated 3-jet order from Saab to donate the other [2-1+3=4, with 2 for Sweden and 2 for Ukraine].

  • The Merge’s Take: This is one of several indications that the war will likely shift back to the air domain in the coming months. Belgium committed to delivering 30 F-16s to Kyiv by 2028, with the first arriving by the end of the year, so it makes sense that AEW&C be there to support them. On the heels of this news, Sweden paused plans to send Gripen jets to Ukraine to prioritize fielding a unified F-16 fleet first.


Bell Textron and Aurora Flight Sciences moved to the next phase of DARPA’s SPRINT program. Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) aims to design and build a high-speed vertical-lift aircraft (HSVTOL) X-plane that does not require a runway and can fly at over 400 knots. Northrop Grumman and Piasecki Aircraft were eliminated.

  • The Merge’s Take: You’re probably confused, thinking we covered this last week. Nope, there are just that many X-plane projects going on at DARPA right now. SPRINT is the HSVTOL project; ANCILLARY is the naval VTOL project; and Liberty Lifter is the C-17-sized seaplane project.

They Said It
“We welded in outer space. We know that for sure. We have images, so we know that part worked.”

Lee Rosen, CEO and co-founder of ThinkOrbital, on the company’s satellite in orbit with a robotic arm equipped with a welder gun

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C. Turkey reportedly used the ALKA directed-energy weapon (DEW) system to shoot down a Chinese drone in 2019 during the Libyan civil war. If you consider any conflict in history, then Greece gets the credit. In 212 BC, Archimedes used polished mirrors to direct sunlight on the sails of Roman ships while defending the city of Syracuse.