Epirus’ Leonidas: Smaller, Smarter, Safer

Epirus News
OCT 23 2023

Last year, we witnessed a new era of warfare play out in Ukraine, as Russian military forces utilized Iranian-made drones in full-scale assaults. Flying at low altitudes, these Iranian “kamikaze” drones have targeted critical infrastructure and civilian residences, all at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional weapons systems.

Drones are, without a doubt, the dominant military capability shaping the war in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine deploy thousands of aerial drones daily with ranges extending hundreds of miles. Drones offer a competitive asymmetric advantage whereby low-cost weapons cause millions of dollars in damage and the loss of countless lives. Ukranian defense leaders have acknowledged this reality, saying that Russian drone strikes are “dominating” the conflict.

While conventional defense systems have had some success in neutralizing these drone attacks, we’ve also witnessed their limitations – from depleted stockpiles to contested logistics routes. The overwhelming barrage of these asymmetrical tactics prove it only takes a few drones slipping through defense measures to cause catastrophic damage.

As drone warfare continues to take center stage in Ukraine, the Department of Defense (DoD) is working to catch up as nations ramp up the technology race in drone innovation. From design and software upgrades to the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology on the battlefield – the rapid evolution in drone warfare is having far-reaching consequences beyond this current conflict. In the face of these growing global threats, the Pentagon has called for collaboration across the defense industrial base and commercial technology sector to develop cutting-edge technology that effectively and efficiently counters weaponized drone swarms while also addressing future threats.

In 2018, Epirus was founded with this mission focus in mind – to develop the most powerful and precise   directed energy high-power microwave (DE-HPM) system that would redefine air defense and protect our men and women in uniform from threats at home and abroad. This ethos has remained a constant throughout the unprecedented timeframe in which we have engineered, manufactured, and tested our flagship Leonidas counter-UAS-swarm system – developed to enhance safety and security throughout every aspect of the system’s design, features, and application.

At its core, Epirus’ revolutionary approach to high-power microwave is centered on one core principle: safety. Our engineers took Cold War-era HPM technology that some present-day systems still rely on and redefined it for the modern era. Relegating vacuum-tube technology that was hamstrung by power and heat constraints, Leonidas’ innovation begins at the chip level with Epirus' solid-state, software-defined approach to HPM. With its software-definition, our system can operate on specific waveforms that resonate most effectively against electronic threats and are perfectly safe for humans. Unlike many DE systems in development, our system does not emit ionizing radiation, but instead, emits microwave energy that is similar to that of your traditional kitchen microwave or smartphone.

Beyond the system’s design, we at Epirus believe safety encompasses how our system interacts with the broader battlefield ecosystem. It starts with spectrum management – assessing all the frequencies and overlaps of systems. Thanks to our software-defined technology, we can assess these frequency overlaps and choose to operate Leonidas on different frequency bands so it does not interfere with other systems (i.e., friendly aircraft) – and it’s as easy as switching channels on a TV.

We also consider the safety of our troops, system operators, and civilians our system is stationed to protect. Through its software definition, Leonidas has the power and precision to neutralize a single threat – like one enemy drone – in a tight, crowded space and disable large swarms of drones that threaten deployed forces, critical infrastructure, cities and more.

National Technical Systems – a leader in electromagnetic testing, inspection, and certification – has validated HERO, HERP, and HERF certifications for Leonidas, meaning the system can safely operation in close proximity to ordinance, people, and fuel. Unlike other DE systems, Leonidas is also safe for the surrounding environment. When the system transmits and engages a target, it does not generate excess heat that would cause collateral damage to the operating environment. And with its precisely tuned waveforms, operators can protect not just friendly assets, but wildlife – birds, for example.  

Thanks to our next-generation HPM technology, there is no limit to the targets Leonidas can engage or protect, giving our system an incredible advantage over competitive DE systems. Unlike laser systems which require massive amounts of energy to operate and keep the beam focused on a single target, Leonidas’ software definition gives it unprecedented levels of precision – for example, the ability to take out multiple hostile targets while leaving friendly aircraft in close proximity entirely untouched.

Beyond its engagement capabilities, Leonidas is always battle ready. Following the basic principles of low probability of interception and detection, Leonidas is emissions conscious – only emitting sparse yet detectable emissions when engaging a target. As DoD plans for future conflicts that will face contested logistics lines, Leonidas presents a significant logistical advantage for the Joint Force. With its short set-up and take-down time, operators can quickly move the system pre-or-post target engagement as the threat environment evolves.

The introduction of new asymmetrical threats has put the entire defense industrial base on notice. While we all work towards a layered defense strategy to meet and defeat these threats, we must hold ourselves accountable for the efficacy and safety of these new solutions.

At Epirus, safety is inherently built into every aspect of our work, from research and development in the lab to the final stages of operational assessment. For us, Leonidas’ ability to neutralize threats is equally as important as its safe operation on the battlefield.

We remain committed to ensuring safety always remains synonymous with Epirus.