An IFPC-HPM prototype is seen in a photo provided by Epirus.

WASHINGTON — After receiving four high-powered microwave prototypes designed to stop drone swarms, the US Army is preparing to send them on to the Middle East to see how they perform, according to Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee today, George told lawmakers that like the Stryker-mounted lasers recently sent over to the US Central Command area, the service’s high-powered microwave prototypes are also headed that “immediately.”

Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the Army chief, later confirmed that once all the necessary approvals are in place, all four Indirect Fire Protection Capability-High-Power Microwave (IFPC-HPM) prototypes are bound for somewhere inside CENTCOM.

“The idea here is to get the soldier, developer and the tester sitting next to each other in a real-world environment adjusting the capability to make it better,” Butler added.

The proliferation of drones and other aerial threats promoted a military race to quickly develop and field new systems to counter them, especially those that offer a lower cost-per-shot kill. Directed energy systems — like high-energy lasers and high-powered microwaves — offer the service hope that after decades of development, several Army efforts are now coming online. George is using this moment to have soldiers test them out against real-world threats and conditions like dust, and CENTCOM is the first stop.

In February, for example, Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. James Mingus first disclosed four Stryker-mounted 50-kilowatt laser prototypes had already been sent to the region. Initial soldier feedback is rolling in and they are reporting size, weight and power issues associated with that laser class and vehicle.

“What we’re finding is where the challenges are with directed energy at different power levels,” Army acquisition head Doug Bush told members of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee last week. “That [50-kilowatt] power level is proving challenging to incorporate into a vehicle that has to move around constantly — the heat dissipation, the amount of electronics, kind of the wear and tear of a vehicle in a tactical environment versus a fixed site.”

While the fate of that Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) initiative hangs in the balance, Bush said 20-kilowatt class systems “are proving successful” for “some” fixed-site setups. (In late-April, first reported that the service had also sent a 20-kilowatt Palletized High Energy Laser, or P-HEL, overseas.)

Now it’s time for soldiers to get their hands on the four IFPC-HPM prototypes produced by Epirus. Just last week the company announced that all four weapons had been delivered to the service and soldiers had wrapped up new equipment training. Engineering development testing had also been completed against both single drones and swarms “utilizing a range of increasingly complex flight patterns.”