WASHINGTON — Epirus, a U.S. company specializing in directed energy and its defense applications, secured a $66 million prototyping contract with the U.S. Army, as the service attempts to counter a proliferating number of overhead threats.

Under the deal handled by the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, or RCCTO, Epirus will this year furnish several prototypes of its counter-drone and counter-electronics high-power microwave kit, known as Leonidas. The latest version of Leonidas, according to the company, was introduced in April.

“Time and time again, we’ve seen that current air defense systems are ill-equipped to tackle the threat of autonomous drone swarms,” Epirus CEO Ken Bedingfield said in a statement Jan. 23. “This contract with the RCCTO brings new counter-swarm capability to the UAS fight with our cost-effective, modular and upgradable Leonidas systems.”

The RCCTO serves as a bridge between the science-and-technology community and the Army’s program executive offices, shepherding promising tech out of the lab and into soldiers’ hands. With the Leonidas equipment, the California-based company is focusing on the service’s indirect fire protection capability investment, meant to tackle rockets, artillery, mortars, missiles and, more broadly, unmanned aerial threats. High-power microwave systems use bursts of energy to disrupt or destroy distant electronics.

Military adoption and deployment of drones has mushroomed in recent years, with Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine again pushing their use into the popular spotlight.

Footage captured by drones can inform military planning and strikes; they can also be outfitted with explosives and other ordnance to wreak havoc from afar. A military base in Syria used by U.S. and local forces was attacked with three drones earlier this month. Two were shot down, according to U.S. Central Command.

“As the threat environment continues to evolve, so, too, will our capabilities,” Bedingfield said Monday, “ensuring the U.S. Army is equipped with effective countermeasures to near-term and over-the-horizon electronic threats for decades to come.”

Epirus in October announced it and General Dynamics Land Systems successfully mounted a Leonidas array onto a Stryker combat vehicle and then ran it through testing, at which it fried both individual drones and collective swarms. The so-called Stryker Leonidas, developed in less than one year, was on display that same month at the annual Association of the U.S. Army convention.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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