Drones dived, sailed and flew together in a swarm in a first for the UK’s armed forces during experimental exercises with the Royal Marines.
An array of autonomous systems operated underwater, on the water, in the sky and over land to help Royal Marines Commandos as they carried out training raids on a number of complex ‘adversary’ positions – such as missile and radar installations – in Cumbria and Dorset.
The uncrewed systems were used on missions at the Electronic Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam on the border with Northumberland and off the south coast in training areas around Lulworth Cove and the Defence BattleLab.
In a first for UK Defence a group of six medium-heavy lift drones were operated in one autonomously controlled swarm from a single ground control station.
The drones were tasked with tactically re-supplying commandos with everything from ammunition for the assaulting troops, through to blood for combat medics.
The swarm also demonstrated significant flexibility and switched roles to conduct reconnaissance missions to provide intelligence for commando raids ashore and at sea against a hostile target, when launched from RFA Mounts Bay.
The autonomous systems also worked together, being tasked independently to find and identify enemy targets, accurately using their range of increasingly powerful sensors and target acquisition algorithms.
The trials – named Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 – are the latest in a series of experimental exercises that have developed ways in which the UK Commando Force will operate in the future, putting an emphasis on human and machines teaming closely together to gain a battlefield advantage.
The ultimate aim is to seamlessly embed autonomous systems on the front line to support commando forces on the battlefield. These experiments scrutinise tactics and develop knowledge of how the drones can and cannot be used.
First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said:
Colonel Chris Haw, the officer in charge of the experiments, said:
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