Earlier this week, Deputy Secretary Hicks announced the capabilities and the selection of a system slated for accelerated deployment under the initial phase of the Replicator initiative, which concentrates on deploying all-domain attritable autonomous (ADA2) systems.

The Department has secured funding totaling around $500 million for Fiscal Year 2024, comprising roughly $300 million from the defense appropriations bill for FY 2024, bolstering the Department’s reprogramming request and additional funds identified through existing authorities and Defense-wide channels. In the President’s Budget for 2025, the Department has proposed a similar allocation, and efforts will be made to collaborate with Congress to secure support for this request. These investments bring together a diverse array of capabilities from both traditional and nontraditional technology entities, including system vendors, component manufacturers, and software developers.

“I am pleased to announce that the Department will begin investing in scalable production for these critical capabilities,” said Hicks. “We are taking an important step toward strengthening our defense and technology industrial base. And, we are demonstrating the Department’s ability to break down barriers to scaling innovation at speed not just for ADA2 systems, but in our ability to develop new capabilities and processes for the Department and key stakeholders, including Congress.”

The initial set of Replicator capabilities encompasses uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), uncrewed aerial systems (UAS), and counter-uncrewed aerial systems (C-UAS) of diverse sizes and payloads sourced from various traditional and non-traditional vendors.

Specifically, the Department will expedite the deployment of the Switchblade-600 loitering munition in the aerial domain, manufactured by AeroVironment Inc., headquartered in Simi Valley, CA. The proven effectiveness of U.S.-supplied Switchblade drones, as demonstrated in Ukraine, underscores their value, and this system will enhance the capabilities available to U.S. forces.

In the maritime sphere, the Department is broadening the vendor pool for uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) through the recently introduced Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME) Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO). This CSO process enables both U.S. and international companies to propose technologies to the Department through an expedited pathway for prototype contract consideration. Initiated on January 30, 2024, the PRIME CSO attracted over one hundred applications from commercial technology firms. With funding secured for Fiscal Year 2024, the Department will award multiple contracts this summer.

Additionally, the first batch of Replicator capabilities encompasses certain classified features, including those in the maritime domain and others within the C-UAS portfolio.

Since Deputy Secretary Hicks introduced the Replicator initiative with its initial emphasis on ADA2 systems slightly over seven months ago, the Department has undertaken a comprehensive effort to align senior leaders towards a unified vision. This effort involves identifying and validating critical joint operational gaps and expeditiously deploying solutions within 18-24 months. Simultaneously, the Department is gearing up to introduce the next set of capabilities to augment the ADA2 portfolio.

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