AFRL to announce HPM industry award opportunities

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate Energy Directorate is announcing its high power microwave program will distribute $10 million in Small Business Innovation Research funds for development of HPM components.

“This money is intended to stimulate the defense industrial base for high power microwave electronics,” said Dr. Don Shiffler, the directorate’s chief scientist. “We hope New Mexico businesses will apply for these awards, and we expect to receive applications from small businesses across the nation.”

AFRL senior strategist Robert Torres is leading the project, along with a team of subject matter experts.

“We will disburse the money across four HPM topic areas,” Torres said. “The areas being researched include conformal antennas, circular polarized antennas, high frequency high power microwave sources and solid state switch technology. Each topic will consist of 16 Phase I awards of $150,000 each for a 9-month period. We will follow this with a down select of eight $1 million Phase II awards, with an 18-month period of performance.”

AFRL anticipates the SBIR award research will go a long way in developing HPM systems of the future.

Specifically, the lab is hoping to further HPM technology in high gain antennas in compact volume, high frequency sources for effects research and solid-state switches for high repetition rate pulsed power.

“An exciting capability we are interested in pursuing is using high power microwave technology to defend aircraft from aerial threats,” Torres said. “AFRL has been working on perfecting laser systems for aircraft protection for many years and we’ve made some groundbreaking advances. We think HPM technology will complement laser systems and provide another option for base and aircraft defense.”

The laboratory expects the SBIR call to go out in January 2022 and to initiate the awards in April 2022.

“We are looking for transformational, innovative ideas and encourage New Mexico small businesses and those across the country to apply,” Torres said.

image of weapon system

Air Force Research Laboratory’s Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR) weapon system at Kirtland AFB, N.M. AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate located on Kirtland developed the base defense system; a prototype directed energy high power electromagnetic weapon used to disable the electronics in drones. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Cochran)