The Pentagon is working on a new roadmap for unmanned aerial vehicles to accommodate
the rapid growth in UAV programs seen in the past several years. The document
will be updated by the middle of 2005, said Dyke Weatherington, deputy of the
UAV planning task force at the office of the secretary of defense.
One aspect of the roadmap will be the working relationship between the Pentagon
and the Department of Homeland Security, which is planning to spin off military
UAV developments for domestic defense.
As it rewrites the roadmap, OSD must coordinate with all the services, said
“The department is encouraging, cajoling, forcing the services and agencies
to work together more closely in that category called joint programs,”
said Weatherington at a conference of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems
These programs are the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System, a Navy-Air Force project
overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Unmanned Combat
Armed Rotorcraft and the Micro Air Vehicle, both Army-DARPA ventures.
In the 2005 budget, the department was able to gain transitional funding for
J-UCAS, formerly known as Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, a program spearheaded
by both the Air Force and the Navy.
J-UCAS will develop a combat unmanned aerial vehicle, to demonstrate its ability
to perform suppression of enemy air defenses, surveillance and precision strike.
An operational assessment is scheduled for 2007.
The vehicles developed by the two contractors for UCAV—Boeing and Northrop
Grumman—already have had their first flights last year.
Meanwhile, the micro air vehicle is in the spotlight, “because there
is a lot of enhanced capability in that class of vehicles,” he said.
The department has seen an explosion in the need for small UAVs, said Weatherington,
and recently submitted the procurement of another 1,700 UAVs, he said. Specifically,
these are the Army’s Raven and the Marine Corps’ Dragon Eye.
“There are also other systems—they go directly to troops on the
ground in contact with enemy forces and they provide an organic capability that
the tactical commander does not have to ask anybody for, because it is at his
discretion,” he said.
UAVs are having a dramatic impact on the combatant commanders, said Weatherington.
By the end of the decade, there will be approximately 1,000 operational unmanned
platforms supporting the combatant commanders, Weatherington forecast. That
number will be up from the current 280 systems.
“In this budget cycle, and this was a fiscally constrained budget cycle,
a lot of troubles to solve, OSD still managed about half a billion dollars increase
over the write-up for UAV systems, including J-UCAS and Global Hawk compared
to fiscal year 2004,” he said. The Pentagon allocated more than $13.2
billion to UAVs from 2000 to 2009.
A large portion of that half billion-dollar increase was to add competition
to the J-UCAS program and “a playing field from the industry perspective,”
he said. “That program has the highest attention in OSD.”
However, that does not come to the exclusion of programs such as the Global
Hawk, Predator, or Firescout, he added. “All those other programs certainly
get a lot of attention and oversight at the department level,” he said.
Because of the role UAVs play for the combatant commanders, a series of advanced
concept technology developments that involve UAV programs have sprung up, Weatherington
“We are seeing more advanced concept technology demonstrations that are
realizing that UAVs have unique characteristics, and in many cases, support
the kind of capabilities that we are trying to push forward to the combatant
commanders,” he said. In many cases, he added, the value of the UAV is
its persistence and its ability to get close to the enemy.