US defence department adds classified C-UAS capabilities to Replicator first tranche

United States Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks announced yesterday some of the capabilities and one of the systems selected for accelerated fielding as part of the first tranche of the Replicator initiative, which is focused on fielding all-domain attritable autonomous (ADA2) systems.

“I am pleased to announce that the Department will begin investing in scalable production for these critical capabilities,” said Hicks as the Defense Department confirmed it had secured USD500M in required funding.

Hicks first announced the US Replicator programme in August 2023, which will see, as a first iteration, “the fielding of thousands of autonomous systems across multiple domains within the next 18 to 24 months, as part of the Pentagon’s strategy to counter China’s rapid armed forces buildup,” the Deputy Secretary said at the time.

The first tranche of Replicator capabilities include uncrewed surface vehicles (USV), uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and counter-uncrewed aerial systems (C-UAS) of various sizes and payloads from several traditional and non-traditional vendors. 

In the air domain, the Department will accelerate fielding of the Switchblade-600 loitering munition, produced by Simi Valley, CA-based AeroVironment Inc. US-supplied Switchblade drones have already demonstrated their utility in Ukraine, and this system will provide additional capability to US forces.

In the maritime domain, the Department is diversifying the vendor base for USVs through the recently announced Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME) Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO). The CSO process allows US and international companies to pitch technologies to the Department in a fast-track process for a prototype contract. Launched on January 30, 2024, the PRIME CSO received over one hundred applications from commercial technology companies. With FY24 funding secured, the Department is on track to award several contracts this summer.

The first tranche of Replicator also includes certain capabilities that remain classified, including others in the maritime domain and some in the counter-UAS portfolio.

See also: Holes in military counter-UAS defence strategies need to be urgently filled

For more information

US Department of Defense

Image: Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks observes a capabilities briefing during a visit to the Defense Innovation Unit in Mountain View, California on Dec. 12, 2023. (Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD)

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