Replicator drones already being delivered, Pentagon says

The Pentagon has started sending systems to Indo-Pacific Command as a part of Replicator — a program aimed at hastening the purchase and delivery of drones.

In a short statement, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who leads the program, said that the deliveries began earlier in May.

Replicator has two goals. The first is to field thousands of drones within two years of its announcement, or by August of 2025. The second is to learn the muscle memory for the Pentagon to run these kinds of sprints when it needs weapons on demand.

The Pentagon has been coy about what systems will be a part of the program. The officials behind it say that’s deliberate. Replicator is focused on countering China, and they doesn’t want to tell the Chinese military what to prepare for.

In a briefing earlier this month, senior defense officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the first set of systems in Replicator will include AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600, a loitering munition. It will also include maritime drones purchased through a solicitation posted earlier this year by the Defense Innovation Unit, which buys high-tech weapons for the Pentagon.

“Even as we deliver systems, our end-to-end capability development process continues,” Hicks said in the statement, a nod to Replicator still being a work in progress.

Between this fiscal year and FY25, the Pentagon has asked for $1 billion to fund the program. The money in FY24 in part comes from a reprogramming request sent to Congress, asking permission to move existing money around. The $500 million in FY25 is already included in the Pentagon’s proposed budget, but spread around different lines of funding.

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