Six months into its effort to field thousands of attritable, autonomous systems, the Pentagon is planning the second iteration of the Replicator program — and this time, software will be the focus.

Capt. Alex Campbell, director of the Defense Innovation Unit’s naval portfolio, said the second tranche of Replicator systems will emphasize the software needed to connect the sensors and drones it wants to field over the next 18 months.

“In tranche two . . . the direction from senior leadership is to also focus on the software that enables all those platforms to function and to exist and to work together and to do things that, frankly, we’ve never seen on the battlefield before,” Campbell said during a Feb. 14 panel at the West naval conference in San Diego.

Those capabilities include connecting multiple platforms to provide kinetic effects in complex threat environments, he said.

“We’re really excited to be tackling both the platform side and the software side and, ideally, finding the route to production for a lot of that work,” Campbell said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks unveiled Replicator in August, pledging to field thousands of uncrewed systems to defend Taiwan against aggression from China.

Hicks has since been working with DIU and leaders within the military services to formalize a mechanism for quickly fielding high-need commercial systems in large quantities. The goal is for Replicator to be a repeatable process the Pentagon can use to push a range of capabilities to military users.

DIU Director Doug Beck said during a Feb. 15 House Armed Services Committee hearing the department has chosen the first tranche of systems it will field through Replicator. Along with its initial selections, the Defense Department has sent a reprogramming request to Congress that would allow DoD to shift funding appropriated for other projects into the efforts it wants to field through Replicator.

“That’s the department getting after sorting through how we can best help make these things happen as fast as possible,” Beck said at the hearing.

Officials have refused to publicly discuss the specifics of those capabilities. Aditi Kumar, DIU’s deputy director for strategy, policy and national security partnerships, said the department is working on a plan for how it will share information on the effort going forward.

“We want to be very careful about how we communicate with the broader public, and by proxy our adversary, on what we have selected and what quantity, etc.,” she said during a Feb. 13 DIU Innovation Summit in Mountain View, Calif.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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