April 02, 2019

The Looming Swarm

BY AMY MCCULLOUGH

Swarming technology could find its way to the battlefield within the next few years, at least in a limited capacity, but it will take some time to marry up the artificial intelligence and autonomy needed for a high-end fight. 

“I love swarming technology, you probably knew that given the job I came from. I think it’s what future warfare looks like,” said Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics. 

Roper took over the Air Force’s top technology job in February 2018, after nearly six years at the Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office, where he oversaw development of the Perdix program, among other new technologies. 

Perdix are expendable, micro-drones that can be pushed out the back of a variety of military aircraft and fly ahead of larger, more expensive remotely piloted aircraft or manned aircraft to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The Strategic Capabilities Office, in partnership with Naval Air Systems Command, tested the advanced swarming capability in 2016, launching more than 100 of the micro-drones from three F/A-18 Super Hornets over Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.