The Pentagon hopes to deploy thousands of drones in several areas over the next two years
The US military has launched a program to develop “drone swarm” technology, aimed at deploying large numbers of drones on land, at sea and in the air, the Pentagon’s number two said, suggesting that new systems are destined for a future conflict with China. .
Speaking Monday at a National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) conference in Washington, D.C., Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks describe the armament program, dubbed “Replicator” which aims to deploy thousands of drones simultaneously.
The official said that while the US military still benefits from systems that are “large, exquisite, dear and few” it has been slower to adopt platforms that are “small, smart, cheap and numerous” like small, easy-to-produce drones. She maintained that the Chinese army has a superiority “mass” on the American forces – “no more ships; more missiles; more people” – and stressed the need to overcome this advantage through innovative weapon systems.
“We counter the mace (of the People’s Liberation Army) with our own mace, but ours will be harder to plan, harder to hit and harder to defeat.” Hicks said, adding that while Beijing was “relatively slow and tedious” during the Cold War, it has since developed forces to “blunts the operational advantages we have enjoyed for decades. »
To recoup these benefits, Hicks said the Replicator program would work to implement ” several thousands “ drones in several areas, hoping to complete the project within two years.
Although Hicks shared a few other details about the initiative, Admiral John Aquilino, who leads the US Indo-Pacific Command, said the drones would be useful in a future conflict with the People’s Republic because they could hitting a large number of targets spread over a geographical area. wide area.
“Here’s a metric for me: 1,000 targets for 24 hours” Aquilino said, adding that his command has worked with DARPA to create systems that will collect and integrate targeting data for an entire theater faster than before, through a program named “Assault Breaker II.”
“INDOPACOM components have been experimenting with many of these unmanned capabilities for five to ten years. It will be an asymmetric advantage. The operational concepts that we are working on will therefore help to amplify our advantages in this theater… there is a term, hellish landscape, that we use”, the admiral continued, referring to a potential war with China.
Earlier this year, the US, UK and Australian military held a joint meeting “capacity test” to showcase new AI-powered drone systems, which have been deployed as “collaborative swarm to detect and track military targets” according to the Pentagon. While it’s unclear exactly how artificial intelligence will factor into the Replicator program, the three allies have increasingly focused on Beijing in the Indo-Pacific, pledging to develop and deploy new military capabilities in the region to counter China.