Navy and Marine Corps propose three systems for first replicator batch

Navy and Marine Corps propose three systems for first replicator batch

A senior Navy acquisition official told lawmakers this week that the service has three projects, including one from the Marine Corps, that are involved in Replicator, a Defense Department effort to rapidly field large numbers of unmanned systems.

“The Navy has been very supportive of replicators,” Nicholas Gartin, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said at a May 15 hearing. “We actually brought two of his projects, the Navy and the Marine Corps, into the first tranche of replicators. [Office of the Secretary of Defense.]”

It was not immediately clear whether Guertin meant that the service had proposed three projects or that all were selected. A Navy spokeswoman declined to clarify his statement or comment further on the system, as did a spokeswoman for Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who heads the replicator.

New details have trickled out in recent weeks, but the Pentagon has promised to create a reproducible process for purchasing the urgently needed commercial technology. Not made clear. In the first iteration, he will push to deploy thousands of drones by the spring or summer of 2025 within 18 to 24 months of the start of the program.

This program has selected systems to purchase as part of the first tranche of Replicator, which will rely heavily on programs already launched within existing production lines and services. Hicks confirmed in a statement last week that AeroVironment’s Switchblade 600, which the Army has already purchased, will be part of the first wave of replicators.

No other systems have been announced, but Hicks said the first tranche will include a range of anti-drone capabilities and some unmanned surface vessels. The maritime system is part of a Defense Innovation Unit program called Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME).

DIU will play a key role in helping coordinate the Replicator and is expected to sign a contract as early as this summer.

Mr. Guertin and other Pentagon acquisition officials told lawmakers it would be helpful for Mr. Hicks’ office to be behind the replicator. But they emphasized that achieving the program’s broader goals will require high-level leadership to work closely with bottom-up elements of the military that control much of the acquisition and deployment process.

Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, technology and logistics, said that’s especially true given the program’s focus on numerous deployment systems.

“When it comes to scale, the most productive efforts are those that are combined with services, which means services are collaborative and collaborative with a clear path to us.” he said. “You need to proactively identify a service partner before the amount becomes too large.”

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante said the partnership is about more than just finding a way to purchase new items. He emphasized that service partners need a plan for how to incorporate it into their doctrine and operational concepts.

Guertin said the plan should extend beyond initial procurement to long-term sustainment support.

“As we look at these types of efforts, we want to make sure we advance our sustainability and support efforts in a way that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and parents can actually trust these things. “We want to be able to use it. We need to fight,” he said.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has been covering the U.S. military since 2012 with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She reported on some of the Department of Defense’s most important acquisition, budget, and policy challenges.

Noah Robertson is a Pentagon reporter for Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.

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