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Pentagon’s Replicator Program Moves Forward With Army Drones

The Department of Defense’s effort to field thousands of autonomous drones has reached a major execution milestone. The Army’s Switchblade-600 loitering munition, built by AeroVironment, has been selected for accelerated fielding under the first tranche of the Replicator program, the DOD said in a release on Monday.

The Army’s acquisition head Doug Bush said at an event in March, “In the Army’s case, we had something we were already working on that was similar [to Replicator’s requirements], so we nominated that. And luckily, that made the cut. And so that was a win-win for the Army.”

Bush, a Wash100 Award winner, noted that the Army is Replicator’s “biggest participant… in terms of quantity.” He said the Army has proposed three more technologies for the program’s second tranche.

Hear the latest updates on the Replicator initiative and how the Army is driving the program forward at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2024 Army Summit on June 13. Doug Bush is slated to keynote the event — check out the full speaker lineup. Don’t miss your opportunity to meet, learn from and network with Army and industry leaders in a collaborative environment! 

Doug Bush Leading Army’s Modernization Push

Since Bush stepped into his role as assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology in February 2022, he has been a champion for change and a vocal proponent of faster technological innovation.

“Acquisition at speed has been my mantra since I arrived,” Bush said at an Association of the U.S. Army event in March. “That’s based on perception of threat. We’re not in a place where we can take our time with programs. We’ve got to keep up with technology.”

At a roundtable discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February, Bush expressed hope that the Replicator program could be a model for the Pentagon to be able to “move faster on critical new tech” between appropriations bills.

“I’m always excited about anything we can do to go faster on new technology,” he said.

Inside Replicator Tranche 1

The first iteration of the Replicator program aims to field thousands of all-domain attritable autonomous, or ADA2, systems within two years in efforts to counter China.

“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,” according to the DOD.

According to the DOD, the Switchblade drones “have already demonstrated their utility in Ukraine,” and they’re expected to provide expanded capabilities to U.S. forces.

The Pentagon secured $500 million in needed funding for the program in fiscal year 24, which includes “approximately $300 million from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 defense appropriations bill supporting the Department’s reprogramming request and additional funding identified using existing authorities and Defense-wide sources.”

There are still some parts of Replicator’s first tranche that remain secret. According to the Pentagon’s release, this includes some classified capabilities in the maritime domain and some in the counter-UAS portfolio.

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