Taiwan, an "unmanned hellscape" for China, US Admiral Paparo says 12/06/2024 | Editorial Team

During the recent International Institute for Strategic Studies' Shangri-La Dialogue Summit in Singapore, Admiral Samuel Paparo, Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, stated that should China invaded Tawain it would face an 'unmanned heelscape'.

In practice, Paparo wanted to make it clear that in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait, the US would mass a huge number of drones to track and target Chinese forces, slow down their progression, condition their manoeuvre, and thus buy time to deploy a more articulate and decisive response.

Unmanned assets would be launched from ships, submarines, and 'mother' drones, acting as a sort of 'first line of defence' with tasks ranging from reconnaissance and tracking to electronic warfare and, of course, attack in 'launch' or 'suicide' mode.

In this regard, the Pentagon, in August 2023, launched the REPLICATOR programme for the acquisition of low-cost drones by August 2025, in thousands, according to the ADA2 (All-Domain, Attritable Autonomous) concept, i.e. multi-domain, disposable and autonomous interconnected drones.

A billion dollar was allocated to the REPLICATOR programme this year, and a month and a half ago it was announced that the SWITCHBLADE 600 loitering munitions (also supplied to the Ukrainians) had been selected as the model for a first tranche of systems.

In reality, little is known about the REPLICATOR programme, and even Admiral Paparo himself, in the above-mentioned statement, explicitly referred to a whole series of classified capabilities with which to create that 'hellscape' or a wall of drones. And it is precisely the wall of drones that enabled the Ukrainians to make extremely costly (under all aspects) the Russian offensive in Donbas between February and May this year.

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