Swarms in the Third Offset

  • October 23, 2017
  • LTC Christopher M. Korpela

Advances in swarm technology is part of the Department of Defense’s Third Offset Strategy which is a plan for overcoming reduced military force structure and declining technological superiority against potential U.S. adversaries. The components of the Third Offset represent the enabling capabilities of swarm behavior which could be adopted in the future force. Therefore, this paper investigates whether the U.S. military should focus greater research and development efforts on swarm-capable systems that are low-cost, numerous, unmanned, and fast. The first area of discussion includes swarm initiatives that could allow the military to transition away from expensive and heavy weapons platforms. Second, self-driving vehicles, automated logistics, and aerial drones in industry could translate to autonomous supply trains, reduced soldier error, and targeting missions in the military. Third, adversaries are pursuing swarm capabilities. While swarms show great promise, there are some major legal and ethical obstacles to swarm-capable systems. Lastly, recommendations are offered as a way ahead for swarm initiatives.