Is AUKUS Weaponizing Drone Swarms Against China?

The British defense minister hinted that AUKUS, a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the US, may involve the weaponization of drone swarms against China.

The AUKUS military alliance has placed special emphasis on swarm drone technologies in what appears to be an effort to gain the upper hand vis-a-vis China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Earlier this week, the British defense minister revealed that AUKUS – a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the US – held its first artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy trial on April 28 with the aim of “rapidly driving these technologies into responsible military use.”

The trial, organized by the UK’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), brought together Australian, UK, and US AI-enabled assets in a “collaborative swarm” in order to detect and track military targets in real time.

The swarm drone group consisted of British and Australian Blue Bear Ghost and Boeing/Insitu CT220 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The joint deployment also included Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, Viking uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV), as well as 105mm FV433 Abbot self-propelled howitzers and Czechoslovakia-made OT-90 derivatives of the Soviet BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle.

“This trial demonstrates the military advantage of AUKUS advanced capabilities, as we work in coalition to identify, track and counter potential adversaries from a greater distance and with greater speed,” UK deputy chief of Defense Staff, military capability, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan, said in an official statement.

What are Drone Swarms?

A drone swarm is a hybrid warfare technology that envisages a group of drones working together to achieve common goals. Drone swarms have a number of advantages, including increased survivability on the battlefield, enhanced accuracy, better coverage, and adaptability. They could be used for surveillance missions, targeting enemy troops and military assets, overwhelming enemy air defenses, etc.

According to tech experts, drone swarms work exactly like bee swarms, separated into “queens” and “workers”: “queens” use sophisticated onboard algorithms to analyze data and assign tasks to “workers” in accordance with the circumstances. For their part, the worker drones act on the orders the “queens” provide. This simplifies the task of the pilot or programmer, who assigns a general task to the group of UAVs, instead of operating each drone separately.

DARPA's Swarming Drones - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.05.2023
DARPA’s Swarming Drones
© DARPA/YouTube /

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