In the days ahead, a swarm of nearly three dozen networked combat drones will be launched from aircraft and ground vehicles, filling the sky above the Great Salt Lake Desert. While seemingly an image ripped from a script of a Hollywood blockbuster, the scene is no science fiction, but instead the largest drone swarm test ever conducted by the U.S. Army.
The drone experiment, which is being held at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City, Utah as part of the U.S. Army’s 2022 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (EDGE22), is a look to the future, according to a top Army official.
#EDGE22 is almost here! During the event, #Dugway will test a variety of products and technologies like the “drone swarm” in this video that works to empower the nations defenders and keep Americans safe.Posted by Dugway Proving Ground (Official) on Tuesday, April 26, 2022
“I think what you’re going to see is an expansive use of electronic warfare and an expansive use of our interactive drone swarm,” said Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, head of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, The War Zone reported.
The test will include a swarm of up to 30 drones deployed from helicopters that will converge on enemy targets, conduct surveillance from a fixed position and relay details to manned assault aircraft and a network of command posts, the site reported.
This is the second year the Army has held the nearly three-week aviation-focused event testing the Army’s future vertical lift modernization effort.
“The upcoming Air Launched Effects swarm our team is conducting out in Utah is the largest the Army has conducted under experimentation conditions,” Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team spokesperson Lisa Ferguson told FLYING.
“EDGE22 is an annual event where the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team and nearly 20 units and organizations from across the U.S. Army, 12 industry partners, and seven international Allies come together to assess new tactics, technologies and interconnecting architectures,” Ferguson said.
Among the demonstrations the Army is planning is a swarm using the Air Launched Effects (ALE) unmanned aircraft systems, which is a family of networked combat drone systems capable of delivering payloads autonomously or semi-autonomously. Drones used in the exercise include Area-I’s Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System 600, known as ALTIUS 600, and Raytheon’s Coyote. Both systems are tube-launched from aircraft or ground and capable of surveillance, electronic warfare and strike missions.
“ALEs extend reach in the lower tier air domain providing critical capabilities needed to achieve overmatch against near-peer adversaries in a multi-domain environment,” Ferguson said. “Our team will assess these capabilities in a theater-relevant, wartime scenario.”
Lessons learned during the demonstration in Utah will help advance ALE swarming behavior in future experiments, she said.