The U.S. Navy has destroyed a surface vessel with a swarm of drones for the first time. The strike, disclosed in a briefing on April 26, was carried out during the Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 exercise conducted off the coast of California.
The swarm attack, which was directed against a target identified by an unmanned surface vessel, was one of several unmanned systems teaming operations during the exercise. These included a combination of unmanned aircraft and boats identifying an enemy vessel that was engaged with an SM-6 anti-ship missile from the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn.
“Our goal for this exercise is to evaluate these unmanned systems and how they can actually team with manned systems,” Rear Adm. Jim Aiken, technical manager for the exercise told a press briefing.
While many of the other unmanned systems have been described in some detail, officials remain vague about the swarm involved. It had previously been disclosed that the exercise would include an element from the Navy’s Super Swarm project. This explores how massive swarms – which may include drones, unmanned submarines, and unmanned surface vessels – can coordinate their attacks against ships for the greatest effect. And also how the Navy can defend against them. Navy researchers have declined to discuss this work.
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