US Pentagon is developing a new ‘weapon of mass destruction’: Thousands of drones will work together to destroy enemy defenses – but experts fear humans will lose control of the ‘swarms’
- Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms is the new project
- DARPA has been collecting bids from suppliers for the $78 million contract
- The US military previously tested drones to deliver medical supplies
The US Pentagon is planning a new ‘weapon of mass destruction’ that involves thousands of drones that strike by air, land and water to destroy enemy defenses – but experts fear humans could lose control of the ‘swarms.’
The top-secret project, dubbed AMASS (Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms), would represent automated warfare on an unprecedented scale.
AMASS is still in the planning stages, but DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has been collecting bids from suppliers for the $78 million contract.
Small drones would be equipped with weapons and tools for navigation and communication, along with abilities ranging from radar jamming to launching lethal attacks.
While the technology would change how the US goes to war, experts in the industry raise concerns.
Zachary Kallenborn, a policy fellow at George Mason University in Virginia, said: ‘As the swarm grows in size, it’ll become virtually impossible for humans to manage the decisions.’
The US Pentagon is working a new ‘weapon of mass destruction’ that involves thousands of drones that strike by air, land and water to destroy enemy defenses. Stock photo
The US military has been using unmanned aerial vehicles on the battlefield since 2001, but has since evolved to employ smaller, stealthier machines to sneak over enemy lines to destroy camps or even jam opposing technologies.
And DARPA’s AMASS would release thousands at once to undertake several tasks with little to no human intervention.
Speaking on a panel at Cornell last year, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Lushenko said: ‘Drones can aid, they can watch, and they can kill.’
‘In theory, AMASS could be entirely non-lethal, carrying out jamming or other non-kinetic attacks in support of other platforms that actually destroy the defences,’ said Kallenborn.
‘I think that’s unlikely though.’
The AMASS project’s development would involve experiments with both real and virtual drone swarms, then gradually increasing their size and complexity.
Warfare experts fear that the swarms will become so large that they will be impossible for humans to control. Stock photo
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), a firm that provides drones and radar solutions for the US military, has released the first concept image for a missile-carrying air-to-air combat drone
According to DARPA federal contract documents, ‘AMASS will create the ability to dynamically command and control (C2) unmanned, autonomous swarms of various types (i.e., swarms-of-swarms) with a common C2 language.’
DARPA said the swarms will be assigned ‘through an optimization process that considers mission objectives, priorities, risks, resource availability, swarm capabilities, and timing.’
A DARPA spokesperson told the SWNS that the aim is to keep humans making key decisions, with drones waiting for permission to act if communications fail.
According to the US Department of Defense’s policy on autonomous weapons (known as Directive 3000.09): ‘Autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems will be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.’
But Kallenborn is skeptical: ‘As the swarm grows in size, it’ll become virtually impossible for humans to manage the decisions. Autonomy and AI will be needed to make those decisions.’
AMASS is not the only DARPA project in the works involving swarms of autonomous drones.
For years, it has been developing project OFFSET (the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics Program), which would involve up to 250 aerial and land drones.
The first true drone swarm effort was conducted by Israel in a 2021 conflict with Hamas in Gaza. But nothing on the scale of AMASS.
Kallenborn said: ‘A massive drone swarm prone to errors would be a terrifying thing – a new weapon of mass destruction.’
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these things are called 'slaughter bots' for a reason. Depends on who holds the program they can target a single individual, to complete groups. They are unstoppable. they can work in teams. They can dodge bullets. They can be armed with C3 explosives and penetrate buildings without going through the front door. Dropped from an Hercules aircraft carrier their could be millions dropped on unsuspecting civilian population. If one gets downed another will take it's place almost instantaneously. They can be centrally controlled from anywhere on Earth. No one would know who the enemy was/is. You could target registered Trump voters, or certain scientists. or white only people. These are waaaay more dangerous than anything humans have created thus far.