US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Dr William LaPlante, says that the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel are among the factors influencing a view that the need for counter-drone assets is accelerating almost exponentially.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA, he said “The production for counter-UAS [has] to go through the roof […] It’s like where we were about a year ago when we said 155 is going to have to go to 100,000 a month”. DoD’s own acquisition of C-UAS capabilities is already the subject of several initiatives, such as the Replicator programme, and AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition, for example, is already is use in Ukraine and has reportedly been requested by Israel.
Another factor underlining the urgency from the Pentagon’s point of view is that US forces have regularly been attacked by drones launched out of Yemen since October – with approaching 60 non-fatal casualties to date.
The challenge, though, is similar to that expressed recently by the Ukraine Armed Forces Chief of Staff – the imperative need to be able to produce highly competent but intrinsically simple drones at scale. Ammunition manufacture in the US has recently quadrupled in volume: it appears a similar effort will be needed in order to meet the accelerating demands for security and response capability with regard to the burgeoning drone threat. Affordability is one issue that exercises nations such as Ukraine: in the case of the United States it is more a question of funding than cost. Industry needs to ramp up and, in order to meet the demand for speed and responsiveness, it is likely it will need help in the form of funding to facilitate the increase in production – at a time when the Pentagon has yet to put a number around its likely requirement: a position exacerbated by the continuing farrago of the lack of a full-year funding approval by Congress.
The need undoubtedly exists. Industry is ready, willing and, to a degree, able to respond. It is now a question of the DoD walking the walk….
(Image: AeroVironment’s Switchblade is already showing its capabilities on Ukraine battlefields. Credit: AeroVironment, Inc.)
Tim Mahon is Publishing Director, Counter-UAS at Unmanned Airspace