shiv wrote:Several questions stem from this.
What use would such a weapon be? If the launch has to be from an aircraft - it needs to come 30 km from target. If a UAV launches it - the UAV needs a payload capacity to carry a cylinder (or several smaller cylinders" the size of large bombs - so a large UAV.
The vehicle/carrier was not created without a mission in mind. The experiments and the vehicle was created very specifically to support specific ISR needs and it is in this area that it has now evolved over its 5 iterations (its on its 6th one at the moment). In addition to collective, distributed ISR, the system is also a test vehicle for greater incorporation of autonomy and collective decision making and machine learning. That is something that scales depending upon the target vehicle which could be as small as the Perdix, or significantly larger in order to support related or unrelated missions. At a very large scale, a four ship (or more) of F-35 autonomously sharing active and passive sensor data and developing cooperative targeting strategies is an application of this on a much larger scale. It is akin to virtual C2.
NRao posted a video of the F-18's launching the Perdix in support of the SCO experiments and validation flights. In support of a US Navy experiment the SCO used these F-18's to launch 103 Perdix systems, tasked with searching for terrorists in a roadside mock village. The collective swarm, developed autonomous routing and converged to begin searching all roads, all the while updating the "swarm" of each vehicle's progress. I believe there was even communication with a ground based AI based terminal that helped them search for terrorists using facial recognition. The objectives was to demonstrate autonomy, the ability of the swarm to self heal and collective decision making. In addition this experiment conducted in 2016, Perdix has also been used in the Maritime ISR mission during large force exercises off of Alaska. Again, it is a type of swarming drone and supports a type of mission. It isn't a solution for a kinetic weapon requiring mission but specific to ISR.
And it isn't that scaling is not on the mind of those prototyping, experimenting and looking to rapidly operationalize these systems. While the sub-300 gram Perdix experiment was being conducted by the SCO, the US Navy was also involved in (2016 and 2017) another very similar swarming experiment using the P-3 Orion, and a much larger swarming drone in the 12-14 lb. class. with (now) a 2-hour endurance and the capability of being launched at 30,000 ft. Using the Raytheon developed Coyote drone, the US Navy was able to launch from the sonobuoy chute of the P-3. In a separate experiment 30 Coyote's were launched in 40 seconds from a Ground based mobile launcher in Yuma Arizona. The Coyote at under 14 pounds has a communication range of 50 nautical miles.
If one were simply only interested in the kinetic nature of these weapons for the various missions one may need them for, then there are umpteen such applications of the technology that enables these swarm tactics. There are many miniature munitions in advanced development and there are quite a few recoverable, and non-recoverable small drones/cruise missiles in the works that could carry these as sub-munitions and could deploy them utilizing swarming and autonomy as a concept.
AI and related concepts that enable swarming are applicable to virtually all missions that require more than one systems to complete. From putting multiple, potentially dozens, munitions on a target (such as an air-field or a SAM site) to Ballistic Missile Defense (MOKV) to ISR and ASW..The Predix, as small as it might be is only an answer to one very specific need as defined by the operators who funded its development.