Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Wednesday touted a new initiative designed to create thousands of weapons systems powered by artificial intelligence, saying it will mark a “game-changing shift” in defense and security as Washington looks to curtail China’s growing influence across the world.
Hicks said the new initiative, called Replicator, is part of a concentrated push at the Pentagon to accelerate cultural and technological change and gain a “military advantage faster” over competitors.
Hicks first announced Replicator last week at a separate defense conference, saying the Pentagon would work closely with the defense industry to field thousands of autonomous weapons and security systems across all domains in 18-24 months.
While the U.S. has already deployed some autonomous systems — vehicles, aircraft or drones that operate without a human — Replicator would mark a significant step toward developing many more of them.
According to Hicks, these units would be “small, smart, cheap, and many.” She tasked the audience to imagine self-operating, AI-powered systems “flying at all sorts of altitudes doing a range of missions,” with some of them potentially even solar-powered.