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Last Thursday, nearly a month after Iran shot a $220 million US drone out of the sky, the US Marine Corps took down an Iranian UAV of its own. But the significance lies less in heightened tensions in the region than it does in the weapon of choice. The strike marks the first reported successful use of the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, an energy weapon that blasts not artillery or lasers but radio signals.

According to remarks by President Donald Trump last week, the drone had come within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer, an amphibious Navy assault ship, and ignored “multiple calls to stand down.” When the drone continued its approach, the Boxer turned to its LMADIS.

The LMADIS system comprises two all-terrain vehicles, called Polaris MRZRs. One serves as a command unit, while the other is outfitted with sensors and signal-jamming equipment. The sensor unit feeds information to a tablet on the command and control MRZR, from which an operator can track an incoming drone, get visual confirmation that it’s hostile, and disrupt communications between a drone and its home using a radio frequency blast.

“It’s not all that different from the drone zappers you can buy commercially,” says Bryan Clarke, former special assistant to the chief of naval operations. “It’s just higher power, and it operates on a wider frequency range. You can have so much power in a small frequency range, or a little amount of power over a large frequency range.”

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Category: Science