Building armies of drones to counter China

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Building armies of drones to counter China

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Defense officials have for years talked about how drones will play a central role in future wars, but other than fiddling at the margins, little has been done to build a large, AI-enabled network of military uncrewed vehicles. The worry in Washington has been that Beijing is ahead of the United States in developing the military use of drones and its growing drone fleets could swarm and confuse the radars and air defenses of U.S. warships, and critical bases in Guam and Japan.

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Article Contents

The move

Biden’s Pentagon unveiled the Replicator program, an effort to build thousands of relatively cheap and quickly replaceable drones that can work together to attack, swarm and bedevil enemy defenses. The goal is to have the drones up and flying within two years. The program, which Pentagon officials say is more reliant on AI software installed on existing drones than actually buying new systems, would be a game-changer for the normally slow, risk-averse Pentagon procurement bureaucracy.

The impact

Once implemented, the U.S. would potentially be positioned to assume real leadership in uncrewed and AI-enabled technology, an area where it has always been strong but where other countries have started moving faster.

The upshot

Tech firms and lawmakers still want more specifics on how this is all supposed to work. But if things go as planned, the success of the program would be a major win for the White House, which has been eager to display American technological and industrial might.



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