“The U.S. is completely dependent on large and major weapons systems, whereas the Chinese are pursuing some major weapons systems development, but are really focusing on mass platforms — the term of art is ‘swarms,'” Doug Wise, who was DIA deputy director until last year, told The Cipher Brief. “Should a U.S. warship all of sudden get swarmed by hundreds if not a thousand small unarmed drones, it could have disruptive and distracting effects — impacting electronics and target acquisition for U.S. weapons systems by blinding them. There an infinite number of roles swarms of nonlethal drones could play.”
Wise said countering drone swarms is a particular challenge. “In the aerial context, you can blind them, shoot them out of the sky, and make them unable to communicate with their headquarters or adjoining platforms. But how do you do that with a platform of hundreds or thousands of drones that only have a visual cross-section of two to three feet?