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MAX POWER leaving Kirtland after AFRL transfers program to Army

  • Published
  • By Jim Fisher
  • Kirtland Public Affairs

MAX POWER, the hulking enemy on wheels of improvised explosive devices, is leaving Kirtland and AFRL New Mexico May 16. The program and its prototype will now be taken forward by the Army.

The program will transfer to the US Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, headquartered at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. ARDEC will continue R&D on MAX POWER locally however, at New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center near Socorro.

The MAX POWER system in long form the Microwave Attack of explosives Powerful Energy Radiation began as a concept within the Directed Energy Directorate in 2009, when the DoD was grappling with the destruction wrought by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Directorate’s lead for High-Powered Microwave research, Mary Lou Robinson.

“Our scientists are innovators and we have some researchers who thought ganging a bunch of magnetrons together would be able to produce enough energy to impose an electric current into an IED and its trigger system to make it pre-fire, thus negating the threat,” she said. A magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves.

MAX POWER evolved from a “science experiment” to an application quickly, according to Directed Energy’s 2nd Lt Daniel Gum. The microwave source was coupled with a power source on a heavy truck chassis and MAX POWER was off and rolling.

“It was built as a system prototype, since then it has been a proof of concept: hey, we can do this, the Air Force has developed this capability,” Gum said. He went on to explain that MAX POWER was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. The vehicle was on point for 19 combat missions with convoys across the IED-infested roads and highways.

The successful deployment in combat was a hallmark for the directorate and microwave technology on the battlefield, Robinson said.

“MAX POWER was one of the first Directed Energy systems that we deployed and used in theater,” she said. “Active Denial was deployed but never turned on. MAX POWER overcame that fear, hesitation, and stigma of using something in theater that you can’t see, and it was used many times. It was a real success for AFRL, and Directed Energy in particular, to have the system deployed in an operational environment to help save lives.”

Robinson explained that ARDEC is interested in technology that provides effectiveness against explosive hazards and improvised threats. AFRL will be ready to assist as the project goes forward.

“Directed Energy is thrilled to have this technology transition to the Army and to their counter-IED office,” she said. “We will remain part of the team and be ready when the Army needs our assistance.”

A reception for MAX POWER at its new home at New Mexico Tech will take place May 19, as ARDEC and NMT officials mark the commencement of a new chapter in counter-IED research and development.