US Navy apparently gearing up to use drone swarms in the future

A new report from MIT Technology Review hints at the fact that the U.S. Navy is seriously considering building swarms of cheap drones for battle.
Christopher McFadden
Swarm of combat drones and command systems
Swarm of combat drones and command systems

iStock / MikeMareen

As reported by MIT Technology Review on Oct. 24, 2022, the U.S. Navy is seriously considering developing swarms of cheap drones to add considerable weaponry to its arsenal. The MIT report centers around a budget document released by the U.S. Navy in May 2021.

This document has some exciting details about how the Navy might use swarms of AI-enabled, autonomous drones for both offensive and defensive purposes. These groups of drones, called "Super Swarm," could be used to overwhelm air defenses or do kamikaze-style airstrikes.

Although the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military have been experimenting with drone swarms for some time (like DARPA's OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics), the budget document offers detailed, in-depth examples of how the department can deploy the swarms in the future.

Drone swarms, for example, could take off from different places, like submarines and planes, and could be equipped in many ways, like carrying bombs, electronic jammers, and military equipment. The document also talks about making "mother ships" to transport and deploy these swarms.

The document also points out that drones could be made en masse using 3D printing to make inexpensive, disposable drones. Costs will have to go down for any future drone swarms to work. Some of the military's most advanced tiny drones already cost more than $200,000 each.

The Navy's drone swarms could also be used as the first line of defense in actual combat. For example, as MIT points out, they could break through fortified defenses and clear the way for airstrikes or ground attacks to come later.

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Even if many of the drones in a swarm are shot down, it wouldn't matter as the purpose is to cause the enemy as much confusion and delay as possible. The timing of MIT's report is also interesting as the world has seen how effective drones can be in actual combat too during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The United States is not the only country considering swarms of military drones. China, Russia, and even Israel are believed to be conducting similar drone swarm research. The latter used swarms of drones in actual combat in 2021.

Whether or not anything concrete will come from this budget document is yet to be seen, but drones will become ever more critical to future warfare.

We'll let you decide if that is good or bad.

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