The Defense Department is gearing up to make a decision on which attritable autonomous systems will be the first to be mass produced under the new Replicator initiative. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, this decision will be made by mid-December. However, she emphasized that there will not be a grand public unveiling of the selected candidates.
In order to create a strategic challenge for the Chinese military in the Indo-Pacific theater, the Defense Department aims to keep details about the selected systems under wraps. The goal is to avoid undermining the entire effort by disclosing sensitive information. Hicks stated that while Congress will be kept informed in classified sessions, the Department is still determining how to publicly address the chosen programs or projects.
Despite the lack of public announcement, the selected projects are already included in the fiscal 2024 budget request. Hicks clarified that the Department is not seeking additional funding for this first phase of Replicator drones. Instead, they are focused on finding ways to accelerate production and delivery, bridging the gap between innovation and fielding. The main objective is to identify the systems that are most relevant for the Indo-Pacific Command (Indo-Pacom) and can be delivered quickly and in large quantities.
The Replicator initiative, introduced by Hicks in late August, aims to identify attritable autonomous systems that are already in the services or combatant commands pipeline and manufacture thousands of them within the next two years. While there have been limited details released since the initial announcement, concerns have been raised by analysts and lawmakers regarding implementation and funding.
Hicks clarified that additional funding for Replicator may be necessary in FY25, but they anticipate using the funds already allocated by the services or combatant commands. The Department is also exploring the inclusion of less mature attritable systems under the Replicator umbrella, with the potential for mass production within the next 18 to 20 months. Hicks assured Rep. Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies, and information systems subcommittee, that the Replicator initiative is meant to complement existing long-range strike capabilities, rather than substitute them.
Q: What is the Replicator initiative?
A: The Replicator initiative is a new program by the Defense Department that aims to mass produce attritable autonomous systems for use in the Indo-Pacific theater.
Q: When will the Defense Department decide on which systems to mass produce?
A: The decision will be made by mid-December.
Q: Will the selected candidates be publicly announced?
A: No, the Defense Department aims to keep the details of the selected systems scarce to avoid undermining the overall effort.
Q: Will additional funding be required for Replicator?
A: While additional funding may be necessary in FY25, the Department expects to use funds already allocated by the services or combatant commands.
Q: How does Replicator fit into existing capabilities?
A: Replicator is meant to complement existing long-range strike capabilities, rather than replace them.