A Marine Air Ground Task Force intelligence officer prepares to launch an RQ-11B Raven Dec. 11, 2016.
The Corps would like to place the power of a swarm of suicide drones, also known as loitering munitions, in the hands of one Marine.
It’s a strategy to help boost lethality and independence of front-line troops operating in austere locations outside of the striking selection of manned aircraft.
The thought is to find a single operator to manipulate up to 15 suicide drones with “minimal operator burden,” Capt. Matt Cornachio, a fires project officer with Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said during a media roundtable Thursday. And so far, the Corps has successfully tested one particular operator controlling six drones immediately.
The loitering munitions includes a mixture of capabilities, from drones packing lethal warheads to get enemy troops or vehicles, for an electronic attack payload to jam enemy communications and air defense.
The single Marine piloting the drones would essentially become his own close-air support and electronic warfare operator.
The Corps already is amid intends to equip its RQ-21 Blackjack drone while using Intrepid Tiger II counter radar capability payload, based on the Corps’ 2018 aviation plan.
The capability would greatly expand the independence of Marines operating through the vastness in the Pacific, that can see Marines operating in decentralized locations on remote island bases or floating barges.
It’s a fighting concept referred to as Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations being pushed by the Corps.
To survive in this fighting environment, the Corps will have to be mobile, fast and light-weight whether it really wants to prevent the onslaught of high-tech Chinese ballistic missiles and complicated electronic attacks.
That does mean that sometimes small bands of Marines may not always be in striking selection of manned U.S. aircraft, or even dominate the airspace by which they are operating.
But to work, the swarming suicide drones will have to be an easy task to operate to keep Marines focused on the battlefield rather than glued with a tablet screen.
To ease operations, the Corps wants its future loitering munitions in the future with automatic target recognition capability.
It’s about “having the machines do the be right for you,” Cornachio said.
The Corps is already during testing its suicide drone swarming capability.
In late July, the Corps wrapped up an endurance test of 1 of the company’s drones, pushing a group two unmanned aircraft at almost a couple of hours of flight, in accordance with Cornachio.
“It isn’t out from the arena of possible to believe these products may be in mid-air for three as much as four hours,” he said.
The suicide drones will have a mix of launch capabilities from packable pneumatic tube launch to vehicle borne systems.
In April, the Corps submitted a request for information for a pneumatic launched suicide drone competent at couple of hours of flight which could potentially fly 60 km.