AeroVironment's Switchblade 600 Selected for Pentagon's Replicator Program

Replicator program will introduce a variety of USVs, UAVs and counter-aerial systems (c-UAS) in different sizes and capabilities.
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  • 04:13 AM, May 8, 2024
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AeroVironment's Switchblade 600 Selected for Pentagon's Replicator Program
Switchblade 600 UAS

AeroVironment's Switchblade 600 loitering munition has been chosen as part of the Pentagon's Replicator program.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks revealed on Monday that the Replicator program will introduce a range of uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), uncrewed aerial systems (UAS), and counter-uncrewed aerial systems (c-UAS) of various sizes and capabilities from both conventional and non-traditional vendors. This selection aligns with the Pentagon's strategy to match China's growing air and naval capabilities through innovative and cost-effective solutions.

The Replicator strategy was introduced last August as part of a comprehensive approach to deploy thousands of cost-effective, intelligent, and autonomous attack drones across different domains. The goal is to match China's rapid expansion in air and naval power and to ensure that the United States maintains a strategic edge in any potential conflict scenario.

Among the systems selected for the program is the Switchblade 600 loitering munition, manufactured by AeroVironment, which is currently employed by the Ukrainian military against Russia. This man-portable kamikaze drone boasts a flight time exceeding 40 minutes and can strike both stationary and moving targets, including hardened ones, up to a distance of over 90 kilometers.

The Switchblade 600, currently in use by the Ukrainian military, offers capabilities such as extended flight time and precision targeting, making it a strategic asset in bolstering U.S. defenses in the Indo-Pacific region.

While specifics regarding sea drones remain classified, Hicks emphasized the Pentagon's intention to diversify its vendor base by engaging both U.S. and international companies through a rapid prototype contract process.

The program has already secured approximately $500 million for fiscal year 2024, paving the way for investments in scalable production of these critical capabilities.

The Replicator initiative aims to deploy "all-domain attritable autonomous systems" to counter Chinese military tactics aimed at controlling Taiwan's airspace and waters and deterring U.S. and allied forces.

Admiral Samuel Paparo, the newly appointed head of the U.S. military's Indo-Pacific Command, described the Replicator program as crucial for delivering the necessary capabilities swiftly and at scale to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The urgency of the program is tied to concerns about China potentially invading Taiwan to unify the island with the mainland. The Replicator program seeks to streamline bureaucracy and expedite deployments in response to this threat.

The initiative's success is expected to rely heavily on collaboration with regional allies such as Australia and Japan, both of whom share concerns about China's expanding military prowess and possess the production capabilities necessary to contribute to the program.

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