The US Navy has destroyed a target using a drone swarm for the first time, sending a clear message to China.
The target, a surface vessel, was destroyed during the Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 exercise, which was recently conducted off the Californian coast.
During the exercise, several unmanned systems teaming operations took place, taking into account various military scenarios.
Speaking about the exercise during an April 26 press conference, as per Forbes, technical manager for the exercise, Rear Adm. Jim Aiken, said:
Our goal for this exercise is to evaluate these unmanned systems and how they can actually team with manned systems.
Although information about the size and number of drones used in this exercise has not been disclosed, Forbes noted that the Navy’s Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program has previously displayed swarms containing as many as 50 coyotes coordinating an attack – Raytheon’s Coyote drones are 13lb, tube-launched drones, with five-foot pop-out wings that have swarming capability as standard.
This type of swarm is intended to overwhelm defences by striking them with more attackers than they can handle, and reportedly costs less than a conventional missile.
The small warheads are capable of knocking out radar and other important systems, leaving the target vulnerable to attack by larger weapons. As per Forbes, a swarm of 50 drones have the ability to attack 50 small targets, including fast attack craft and unmanned surface vessels.
China is currently developing anti-access/area denial defences to keep US aircraft and warships away from the South China sea, and so it would appear that the US is now preparing a response.
Unmanned systems mean that sailors’ lives won’t be put at risk, and also eliminates the danger of escalation and human casualties. Unlike a missile, a swarm attack is said to be scalable and is capable of escalating to any level of conflict.
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