US Navy to Test Onboard Microwave Weapon in 2026

The US Navy plans to mount a high-powered microwave-based counter-air defense system prototype on one of its vessels in 2026.

The METEOR will be the navy’s first high-powered microwave (HPM) project to counter targets such as drones and anti-ship missiles, USNI News wrote, citing the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget documents.

The US Army and the US Air Force have already been working on their own HPM projects, in addition to other directed energy projects such as lasers. 

Advantages Over Lasers

Unlike laser weapons, which melt, burn, or vaporize a target with a high-powered beam, a microwave system can produce a range of effects from disrupting or destroying a target’s electronics to greater destruction.

Its wider beam also reportedly holds an edge over the laser to counter multiple targets, such as drone swarms, faster.

“The METEOR HPM weapon development will provide capability with low cost-per-shot, deep magazine, tactically significant range, short time engagement for multi-target approach, dual deception and defeat capability,” according to the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget documents.

“The objective of METEOR is to demonstrate tactically significant, non-kinetic, High Power Microwave payload integration onto Naval platforms to defeat, track, engage and assess operational threats while assessing integrated sensors and weapon control options.”

Leonidas high-power microwave weapon. Photo Epirus

Possible Deployment

Potential deployment is being considered for a range of theaters including the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s anti-missile capability, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean where the Houthis have launched multiple drone and anti-ship cruise missile strikes at merchant ships.

“Currently, the Joint Force suffers from a lack of redundant, resilient hard kill/soft kill options against stressing stream raid threats of Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles,” USNI News quoted the financial year 2025 budget documents as stating.

“The issue is particularly acute in the [US Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility] due to the vast geographic distances involved, ship magazine size and adversary actions.”

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