A swarm of military drones will be launched over the Utah desert as part of an international field training exercise later this month, according to a report published by The War Zone. The swarm will comprise of 30 small drones for a dual air-assault mission.
“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,” Rugen said.
The test will occur at the Army’s 2022 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise, which runs from April 25 to May 12 at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City, Utah. The service will use a combination of ALTIUS 600 and Coyote drones by Raytheon.
ALTIUS 600’s range is about 276 miles and can operate for four hours. Depending on payloads, the drone weighs 20-27 pounds and can be outfitted with a warhead head for offensive missions. Meanwhile, Coyote drones provide reconnaissance.
The drones will be launched from an assortment of aircraft and ground vehicles.
“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 form a swarm where surveillance ones with infrared sensors and electronic warfare payloads will detect and relay intelligence to human operators overseeing the operation. Humans will decide how to engage the enemy targets, whether through suicide drones or other firepower means.
Earlier this month, the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center released a short animation of a similar drone swarm scenario.
Judging by the Biden administration’s speed in transferring small high-tech drones to Ukraine, these new drone swarms could make their way to the war-torn country in the near term.