Anduril, a non-traditional defense startup based in California, has acquired drone maker Blue Force Technologies amid a flurry of announcements from senior Pentagon officials in the past few weeks that fleets of autonomous weapon systems must be fast-tracked to compete with China.
Neither company has disclosed the terms of the deal.
Chris Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer and a former chief of staff on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with Inside Defense that the company intends to “pour investment” into Blue Force, especially its unmanned Fury aircraft, which, when paired with Anduril’s “Lattice for Mission Autonomy” could compete to be the kind of “collaborative combat aircraft” sought by the Air Force.
“We want to catalyze and accelerate that progress,” he said. “This is something we are seeking to build an alternative industrial base to produce.”
The announcement of Anduril’s acquisition of North Carolina-based Blue Force comes amid the Pentagon’s unveiling of its new Replicator program, which aims to purchase thousands of small, autonomous and “attritable” drones to counter China’s enormous military presence.
“The Replicator initiative is music to my ears,” Brose said. “I think it is what the department has needed, what industry has needed for years now, which is moving beyond innovation and experimentation and getting to real large-scale production and autonomous capabilities.”
But, he said, “the devil is in the details.”
“Will there be money for this? Why will this work when other large defense initiatives have worked less well?” Brose said. “All of those challenges are surmountable. It really comes down to whether the government has the will to complete the swing.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, meanwhile, said at a Defense News conference Wednesday that DOD does not intend to make Replicator a program of record or seek new funding for it in fiscal year 2024.
“We're not creating a new bureaucracy and we will not be asking for new money in FY-24,” she said. “Not all problems need new money. We are problem solvers and we intend to self-solve. So, Replicator will use existing funding, existing programming lines and existing authorities to accelerate production and deliver at scale.”
Hicks said DOD envisions “flocks of systems, flying at all sorts of altitudes, doing a range of missions” to compete with China’s No. 1 advantage in the Indo-Pacific: size.
“They could be deployed by larger aircraft, launched by troops on land or sea, or take off themselves,” she said.
Brose said Anduril, which purchased autonomous underwater vehicle maker Dive Technologies in 2022 and rocket firm Adranos in June, is positioning itself to bring “affordable mass” to DOD.
“The pacing threat that everyone is focused on rightly is China,” he said. “As a company that is the problem we are helping and seeking to help the DOD solve. That is where we want to be relevant, that is where we want to add value and that is where we want to change the game.”