U.S. Army Eyes a Mass Loitering Munition Acquisition

U.S. Army Eyes a Mass Loitering Munition Acquisition

The U.S. Army plans to field more than 1000 Switchblade 600 loitering munitions in 2025 within the scope of the Replicator programme. General James Mingus of the U.S. Army gave the information on the 21st of June during the House Appropriations defence subcommittee. Defense News reports that the Pentagon will spend $1 billion in FY2024 and FY2025 for the large-scale Replicator unmanned systems acquisition programme.

Switchblade 600 is the larger member of AeroVinoment’s Switchblade tube-launched loitering munition family. Switchblade 600 can carry an anti-personnel or anti-armour warhead up to a range between 40 km and 90 km, depending on the flight path. The launch tubes can be used in a single configuration by infantry or loaded in larger numbers onboard vehicles. Target acquisition is provided by a gimbal EO/IR, unlike the smaller Switchblade 300, which uses a fixed camera. 

The Replicator program involves extensive use of AI to coordinate the swarms of drones to be deployed. One example of such use is bio-mimicry, modelling the flock of birds’ proximity flight abilities to allow the swarms to fly in tighter formations. UAVs in today’s environment are capable of carrying out ISR, electronic warfare, close air support and even destruction of enemy air defences. Another purpose of the Replicator program is to have the UAVs in the swarms share the mentioned missions autonomously.