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AeroVironment to Supply Loitering Munitions for Pentagon Replicator Program

The US Department of Defense has selected AeroVironment to provide loitering munition systems for the agency’s Replicator initiative.

The program seeks cost-effective “force multiplier” capabilities in the form of autonomous systems to counter Chinese threats across different domains.

For the Replicator’s first tranche, AeroVironment will supply its proprietary Switchblade 600 man-portable, extended-range loitering munition system, which has also been used by Ukraine against Russian forces.

The Switchblade 600 incorporates precision flight control and modern sensors to sustain rapid launch and engagement against non-line-of-sight targets.

The drone is designed with a patented “wave-off and recommit” solution, enabling users to abort neutralization and re-engage in unforeseen conditions.

The Switchblade 600 is equipped with anti-armor and anti-personnel effects. It has an endurance of more than 40 minutes, a range of up to 90 miles (56 miles), and speed up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour.

AeroVironment Switchblade 600
AeroVironment Switchblade 600. Photo: AeroVironment

“Switchblade 600 is a battle-proven system in full-rate production that can support the [Department of Defense’s] desire to field thousands of autonomous systems across multiple warfighting domains,” AeroVironment Loitering Munitions SVP Brett Hush remarked.

“Our uncrewed systems, autonomy technology and computer vision software can help achieve multi domain operations in a heavily contested battlespace, at very low costs and high levels of resiliency.”

“We have not only invested in the maturation of such disruptive technologies but also the production capability and capacity to produce large volumes at the level of reliability that the US [Department of Defense] expects.”

The Replicator Initiative

According to the Pentagon, the Replicator initiative will receive initial funding of approximately $500 million.

Work for the maritime domain will focus on unmanned surface vehicles and is now in process under the agency’s Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME) Commercial Solutions Opening.

PRIME, launched in January, has received more than 100 applications from commercial vendors.

Other Phase 1 articles for the Replicator’s maritime and counter-drone areas remain classified, the department wrote.

The overall Replicator program will be facilitated over 18 to 24 months, with approximate funding of $1 billion per year.

“This is a critical step in delivering the capabilities we need, at the scale and speed we need, to continue securing a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a statement from the Pentagon said.

“Meeting the strategic imperatives facing the nation requires that we harness the very best of America’s commercial technology in non-traditional partners, alongside our traditional sources of defense capabilities.”

“Replicator is helping us jumpstart the delivery of critical capabilities at scale. We will build on that momentum with industry partners to deliver what the warfighter needs, and remove barriers to doing so again and again.”

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