(TheRedAlertNews.com) – The US Department of Defense is working on a new “weapon of mass destruction” consisting of swarms of thousands of drones to shatter enemy defenses.
However, experts warn that the sheer quantity of drones, including air, land, and sea devices, may result in losing control over their “swarms.”
The new US weapons project called AMASS (“Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms”) would provide for “automated warfare on an unprecedented scale.”
It is still in the planning stage, but the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DAPRA) is already accepting supplier bids for a $78 million contract.
AMASS provides for equipping small drones with weapons as well as navigation and communication tools. The drones would be able to jam radars and perform lethal attacks.
The US military started using drones in combat in 2001. It has been developing smaller devices capable of sneaking through enemy defenses to destroy military camps or jam intercepting technologies.
DAPRA’s AMASS weapon system would provide for launching thousands of drones simultaneously and directing them to perform several tasks without or with very little human intervention.
The development of such drone swarm capabilities has caused concern among experts such as Zachary Kallenborn, a policy fellow at George Mason University in Virginia.
“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,” Kallenborn told The Daily Mail.
“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 defenses. I think that’s unlikely though,” he elaborated.
The development of AMASS would require virtual and real experiments with drone swarms whose size and complexity would grow gradually.
“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,” read DARPA’s federal contract documents.
According to a DARPA spokesperson, the weapons system’s goal would be for humans to make the key decisions, while drones would for permission to act if communications fail.
“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,” stipulates the US Department of Defense’s policy on autonomous weapons (“Directive 3000.09”).
DARPA already has other projects on autonomous drone swarms – such as OFFSET (the “OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics Program”), which includes up to 250 aerial and land drones.
The report notes the “first true drone swarm effort” was carried out by Israel in 2021 in its conflict with the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, that was small-scale compared with what AMASS will seek to accomplish.