The Utah desert is going to get swarmed with drones later this month as the U.S. Army plans an international exercise that will see up to 30 small drones deployed in the region as a dual air-assault mission, according to a report published by The War Zone on Friday. The drones will mark the largest group of interactive air-launched effects the Army has ever tested.
Expansive use of interactive drone swarm
“I think what you're going to see is an expansive use of electronic warfare and an expansive use of our interactive drone swarm,” Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, head of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, told The War Zone. “We feel like we're going to be flying the largest interactive drone swarm ever in partnership with DARPA and our science and technology experts out of Aviation and Missile Command.”
The event will take place at the Army’s 2022 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (EDGE 22), which runs from April 25 to May 12 at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City, Utah. The exercise will see the use of a mix of ALTIUS 600 and Coyote drones by Raytheon.
A variety of drones
ALTIUS 600 drones weigh between 20-and 27 pounds and come with a range of 276 miles. They can last for at least four hours and can be fitted with a warhead for offensive missions or employed as a counter-drone weapon.
Meanwhile, the Coyote drones boast a rear pusher prop, a set of pop-out wings, and a pop-up twin-tail which resulted in them initially being marketed as low-cost intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms. They were later, however, used to gather data from inside hurricanes in 2017.
The drones will be launched from a variety of areas, both on the ground and in the air. “We'll be launching them pretty much, you know, Monster Garage-style, anyway we can,” Rugen said. “Which again shows, in my mind, just the flexibility of our air-launched effects initiatives because we can launch it from the air. We can launch it from the ground. We can launch from fixed-wing, rotary-wing, any type of ground vehicle.”
The drones will then come together to head toward an intended assault landing zone where they will sense enemy forces, fix their positions and communicate back with command posts.