The desired technical upgrade is reportedly part of a shift towards confronting China, namely in the South China Sea, with a light and at the same time deadly infantry force, minimising the logistical burden for the units.
The US Marine Corps wants to provide its infantry units with autonomous drone swarms, Defence News reported on Wednesday, citing information it requested in November.
The programme, called “Under the “Organic Precision Fires – Infantry Light”, seeks ground-launched drones that are jam-resistant, swarm, have a range of up to 20 kilometres (almost 6,656 feet), and can loiter for 90 minutes, the report says. They must be deployed with no more than two people and be capable of eliminating enemy troops and material.
According to Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer, Special Operations Forces have so far used small loitering munition drones, but adopting drone swarm technology would cause much more serious damage to the enemy, or the target area.
“The swarming idea would be ‘How do I overwhelm the enemy’s defences and cut off lines of escape’, Clark said, as quoted by the newspaper. “[…] the idea here is to cause an area effect. You want to overwhelm defenses or cause explosions over a wider area to try and herd your adversary or cut off lines of retreat.”
He added that by using swarming drones, the military can apply such a pattern of attack that drives the adversaries into a certain limited area, the so-called “kill box”. The technology can also be used to trick the enemies into searching for the marines unit in the wrong direction.
Another expert, retired Marine Dakota Wood, noted that drone swarms are able to maximise damage against the enemy while minimising it for the unit, while also allowing it to act more autonomously.