To make a choice on the best course of action and update their capability development plan, the US Army is testing and debating the purchase of “launched effects” drones, looking into possible capabilities and deployment strategies with a focus on a “wolf pack” formation.
The US Army is considering the acquisition of “launched effects” drones and recently conducted the Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (EDGE 23) to explore the capabilities and potential deployment methods. The focus of the exercise for the US Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC) was on testing the launch and integration of these small drones from a Gray Eagle UAV and an MH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The army is leaning towards using a “wolf pack” formation, with one drone leading and others following in a hierarchical structure. The drones would be equipped with various payloads, including sensors and munitions, and were tested with the Hero-120 drone, designed to target tanks from a distance. The army has been working on an air-launched effects prototype and awarded contracts to several companies to collaborate on the development. The prototypes were also launched from ground platforms during EDGE 23. The army is currently in the process of deciding the way forward and will update its accelerated capability development plan by the end of fiscal year 2023. The focus is on developing mission system architecture, payload architecture, and all-up round capabilities. The next steps could include low-rate production or rapid fielding.