US Army plans deployment of over 1,000 Switchblade drones
    Through Replicator initiative

    WORLD  23 June 2024 - 06:30

    The US Army is set to deploy more than 1,000 Switchblade 600 drones over the coming year under Replicator, a Pentagon initiative aimed at rapidly fielding numerous unmanned systems.

    During a recent House Appropriations defence subcommittee hearing at the Defense Innovation Unit’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., General James Mingus, the Army’s vice chief of staff, disclosed this deployment plan for the first time, Defense News reports.

    The Switchblade 600, manufactured by AeroVironment, is part of the initial phase of Replicator, which aims to procure various unmanned systems quickly to address immediate operational needs.

    Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks introduced Replicator last August with dual objectives: deploying attritable drones in large numbers for immediate challenges posed by China and establishing a sustainable procurement process for critical technologies.

    Funding for Replicator, totaling $1 billion across fiscal years 2024 and 2025, will be sourced from multiple streams, including prior appropriations, a reprogramming request, a national security supplemental, and the upcoming FY-25 budget proposal.

    The Switchblade 600, known for its use in conflicts such as those in Russia, Syria, and Iraq, was originally slated for acquisition under the Army’s Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance program in smaller quantities. However, its selection for Replicator has expanded its procurement significantly. Last October, the Army announced its initial purchase of 100 Switchblade systems for testing and deployment.

    General Mingus highlighted the collaborative innovation behind incorporating the Switchblade into Replicator, emphasizing its role as a loitering munition critical to current and future Army operations.

    Deputy Secretary Hicks confirmed last month that Replicator systems had begun deployment to the Indo-Pacific Command from early May, although specific systems and quantities deployed were not disclosed.

    “This demonstrates that our approach to warfighter-focused innovation not only works but is yielding tangible results,” Hicks commented. “As we continue to deliver these systems, our comprehensive capability development process remains ongoing.”

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