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US Air Force officials are working with microwave experts to conduct experiments with high power electromagnetic (HPEM) technology. The work offers the potential to enhance missile defense and electronic warfare capabilities. “This will innovate the technology for future warfare,” said Erin Pettyjohn, Deputy Division Chief of the High Power Electromagnetics Division of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate.  “We’re pursuing development, application and design of high power microwave systems for non-lethal, non-kinetic weapons,” said Pettyjohn.

The experiments being conducted explore how features of HPEM, such as carrier frequency or pulse repetition frequency can determine the ideal ratio for electronic warfare operations. This ratio would maximize the amount of electromagnetic energy that makes it from the HPEM system to the enemy target.

HPEM EW would change the future of military operations because “it’s designed to affect only electronics while also being safe to humans.  It will provide a capability to enable low collateral damage, as it will not physically destroy infrastructure nor affect personnel health,” explained Pettyjohn.

According to’s report, potential HPEM capabilities could include disrupting computers, aircrafts, or electric grids.  According to DOD, these experiments will include how HPEM can be used for cyber or EW applications, conduct, experiments, and demonstrate concepts. Researchers at the Air Force are anticipating this HPEM technology will enhance field experiments such as Black Dart and Vigilant Hammer when integrated with existing cyber and electronic warfare systems.

Work on this project is being conducted at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be completed by August 2020.