WASHINGTON, March 18, 2003 — The Defense
Department today unveiled a billion dollar roadmap for unmanned
aerial vehicles during the next 25 years. Plans call for developing
joint interoperable UAVs that are capable of everything from surveillance
to air strike.
"The roadmap provides those high priority
investments necessary to move UAV capability to the mainstream,"
said Dyke Weatherington, deputy of the UAV Planning Task Force
in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, at a DoD press briefing
today. "The potential value UAVs offer range across virtually
every mission area and capability of interest to DoD. The roadmap
identifies those key technology areas that we think are right
The Pentagon has made UAV weapon systems a priority.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who strongly supports the UAV
program, has pushed UAVs as one way to transform the military.
Today, about 90 UAVs support military operations
around the world, and the department has them standing by for
potential use over Iraq.
By 2010, according to the roadmap report, DoD
hopes to increase its UAV inventory to about 350. And the department
plans to increase that to more than a thousand in the outyears,
according to Weatherington.
>From 1991 to 1999 the Pentagon invested about
$3 billion in UAV projects. That is projected to rise to $10 billion
from today through 2010, according to the latest DoD Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles Roadmap 2002-2027 report.
The Air Force's Predator UAV proved its military
capability flying reconnaissance missions in Bosnia, and was credited
with taking out one of al Qaeda's top lieutenants in Afghanistan
with a Hellfire missile.
Besides Predator, the military services are developing
other UAV platforms. For example, the Air Force has another UAV
called Global Hawk. The system is completely computer-operated
and can be used for long-term surveillance. The high-flying Global
Hawk currently carries photo reconnaissance equipment, but production
versions of the system will carry electronic intelligence gathering
materials. The Global Hawk can stay airborne for 32 hours.
The Army has developed the Shadow 200 tactical
UAV. The Army also has the Hunter UAV, and both are primary surveillance
UAVs and relay video in real time.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has developed Dragon
Eye, a small, hand-launched UAV that can give leaders a snapshot
of the battlefield, and it plans to make improvements to the Pioneer
UAV developed by the Navy. The Pioneer was used in the 1991 Gulf
The Navy is developing Neptune, which can drop
small payloads and the X-46/X-47, a large autonomous unmanned
combat aerial vehicle that has a 34-foot wingspan. The system
will be initially built for tactical surveillance, but the Navy
envisions it one day becoming a strike system.