Éditoriaux Défense Sécurité Terrorisme Zones de conflits Logistique Livres de référence Liens
Terre Air Mer Gendarmerie Renseignement Infoguerre Cyber Recherche

Options for Enhancing the DoD's UAV Programs

Options for Enhancing the DoD's UAV Programs

Source: Congressional Budget Office, September 1998.

NOTE

Numbers in the text and tables of this paper may not add up to totals because of rounding.

PREFACE

The Department of Defense spends about $600 million a year on various programs to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Historically, however, the department has had trouble developing and fielding UAV systems. Currently, two UAVs have been deployed or are in production (Pioneer and Predator), and three more are in development (Outrider, Global Hawk, and Darkstar).

This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paper reviews the plans, requirements, and costs for the Department of Defense's UAV programs. It also examines five options intended either to address problems in those programs or to make greater use of UAVs' potential as cheap, unmanned reconnaissance systems. The analysis was requested by the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. In keeping with CBO's mandate to provide objective and nonpartisan analysis, this paper makes no recommendations.

Eric J. Labs of CBO's National Security Division prepared the paper with the assistance of Evan W. Christman and under the supervision of Christopher Jehn, Cindy Williams, and R. William Thomas. Joann Vines of CBO's Budget Analysis Division performed the cost analysis under the supervision of Michael Miller. Evan Christman wrote most of Chapter III. Delia Welsh thoroughly reviewed the manuscript before publication. The authors would also like to thank Rachel Schmidt of CBO for providing many useful comments, and the numerous people from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Office of the Secretary of Defense, RAND, Bell Helicopter, Canadier, MITRE, the Stratos Group, Israel Aircraft Industries, TRW, and Sikorsky who provided essential information and comments. Of course, all responsibility for the analysis lies with the authors and CBO.

Christian Spoor edited the manuscript, Melissa Burman proofread it, and Cindy Cleveland prepared the paper for publication. Laurie Brown prepared the electronic versions for CBO's World Wide Web site (www.cbo.gov).

June E. O'Neill

Director, September 1998

CONTENTS

SUMMARY

I - PROGRAMS AND MISSIONS FOR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

A Brief History of UAVs

The Role of UAVs in Future Warfare

DoD's UAV Programs

Problems with DoD's UAV Programs

II - DEVELOPING UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES: THE ACTD PROCESS

Why Developing UAVs Has Been Difficult

How Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations Work

Applying the ACTD Approach to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The Effects of the ACTD Approach on the Cost and Capability of UAVs

III - ILLUSTRATIVE OPTIONS FOR DoD'S UAV PROGRAMS

Option I: Cancel Outrider or Make It Solely an Army System

Option II: Use Hunter to Meet the Army's Division and Corps UAV Requirements

Option III: Buy Tilt-Rotor UAVs and Reduce the Army's Planned Comanche Helicopter Force

Option IV: Use Global Hawk UAVs to Substitute for the Reduction of JSTARS

Option V: End Darkstar After the ACTD and Rely on Other Systems

TABLES

   

S-1.

Major Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Programs

S-2.

Comparison of the Capabilities of Predator, Darkstar, and Global Hawk

S-3.

Costs and Savings for Five Illustrative Options for UAVs

1.

Major Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Programs

2.

Operational Factors for Deployed UAVs

3.

Technical Objectives for UAVs Under Development

4.

Comparison of the Size of UAVs and Manned Aircraft

5.

Costs and Savings for Five Illustrative Options for UAVs

6.

Meeting Army Brigade-Level UAV Requirements Under DoD's Plan and Option IA

7.

Meeting Navy and Marine Corps UAV Requirements Under DoD's Plan and Option IA

8.

Meeting Corps- and Division-Level UAV Requirements Under the Army's Plan and Option II

9.

Number of UAVs Substituted for Comanches Under Option III

10.

Performance Capabilities of a Comanche Versus a Tilt-Rotor UAV

11.

Comparison of the Capabilities of the Moving-Target Indicators on JSTARS and Global Hawk

12.

Comparison of the Capabilities of Predator, Darkstar, and Global Hawk

 

 

FIGURE

 

 

1.

Possible Outcomes for an ACTD Project

 

 

BOXES

 

 

1.

Calculating Attrition for UAVs

2.

UAV Survivability in Wartime

SUMMARY

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft that can carry cameras, sensors, communications equipment, or other payloads. The Department of Defense has used UAVs in military operations since the 1950s because they can provide reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence of enemy forces without risking the lives of an aircrew. In recent years, interest in the many capabilities of UAVs has been growing among the armed services. At the same time, the services have been having difficulty actually acquiring and deploying the UAVs they have tried to develop. As a result, many of those development programs have been cancelled (see Summary Table 1). The Department of Defense (DoD) hopes to do better with the four UAVs that are now under development or in initial production: Predator, Darkstar, Global Hawk, and Outrider.

SUMMARY TABLE 1. MAJOR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE PROGRAMS

Program

Period

Description

Status

 

Lightning Bug

1964-1979

Reconnaissance drone first used by the Air Force during the Vietnam War

Retired

Aquila

1979-1987

Tactical UAV for Army commanders

Canceled

Amber

1984-1990

Classified endurance UAV

Canceled

Pioneer

1986-present

UAV originally acquired to assess battle damage by naval gunfire

Deployed

Medium Range

1987-1993

Tactical UAV for the Air Force and Navy

Canceled

Hunter

1988-1996

Joint tactical UAV

Canceled after LRIPa

Gnat-750

1988-present

Long-endurance UAV developed with CIA funding; exported commercially

Used for training and intelligence missions

Predator

1994-present

Long-endurance UAV for theater commanders; based on the Gnat-750

In LRIP

Darkstar

1994-present

Stealthy endurance UAV for high-threat environments

In development

Global Hawk

1994-present

High-altitude, long-range endurance UAV

In development

Outrider

1996-present

Joint tactical UAV

In development

 

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.

NOTE: UAV = unmanned aerial vehicle; LRIP = low-rate initial production; CIA = Central Intelligence Agency.

a. Seven systems--each equipped with eight air vehicles, four ground control stations, and support equipment--were initially placed in storage. Later, most of the equipment for two systems was re moved and used in training exercises and in developing "concepts of operation" for UAVs.

 

In this paper, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examines DoD's unmanned aerial vehicle programs, reviewing their missions, requirements, and development process. It also focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) process being used to develop them. Criticisms of the new unmanned aerial vehicles have led some Members of Congress to question whether reasonable alternatives exist to DoD's plans for acquiring and using UAVs. This paper examines five options for the various UAV programs. Those alternatives illustrate other potential configurations of the future UAV force--each of which would have advantages and disadvantages that would differ from those of the current combination of programs.

PROMISE AND PROBLEMS IN DoD'S UAV PROGRAMS

Unmanned aerial vehicles make up a small part of the defense budget (DoD currently spends about $600 million a year on all UAV acquisition programs--less than 1 percent of its acquisition budget). Nevertheless, they hold great promise. Military thinkers who contend that warfare is becoming more information-based believe that UAVs can play a key role by providing their users with sustained, nearly instantaneous video and radar images of an area without putting human lives at risk. At the tactical level--the local area of operations--that is a capability that battalion and brigade commanders have not had before. At the longer-range, strategic level, UAVs have some advantages over reconnaissance satellites, such as being able to watch one area for an extended period of time. (Eventually, unmanned aerial vehicles may also be used in combat operations, such as the suppression of enemy air defenses and strike missions, but those developments are still years from realization.)

Because the different military services have various imagery needs at various levels, DoD plans to field a family of UAV systems. The only one currently deployed with U.S. troops is Pioneer, which the Navy and Marine Corps use for a variety of tactical operations, including surveying potential targets and assessing damage from naval missiles and gunfire. Pioneer, which is now 12 years old, is considered outmoded and is due to be retired in 2003. That date may be pushed back a few years, however, while a successor system is developed.

The system that is next-farthest along is Predator, a medium-altitude UAV that has finished its development phase and entered low-rate initial production. Predator is an Air Force system designed to meet the reconnaissance needs of the theater commander in a major regional conflict. The Army, however, would also like its corps and division commanders to be able to use Predator in such conflicts.

The three newest UAVs--Darkstar, Global Hawk, and Outrider--are still at the development stage. Darkstar and Global Hawk, which are being developed together, are both high-altitude UAVs that would be used (in different ways) by theater commanders and national command staff for reconnaissance and surveillance. Outrider, in contrast, is a tactical UAV geared toward brigade and task-force commanders.

In reviewing those unmanned aerial vehicle programs, CBO has identified three issues of concern. Two of those issues relate to the tactical UAVs that the services would put into the field. The third relates to the high-altitude UAVs.

First, Outrider (the tactical UAV under development) may not be suitable for all of its intended missions. Although it is being developed as a joint program for the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, Outrider will not have several attributes that are important for a Navy or Marine system operating from ships: vertical take-off and landing capability and an engine that can run on heavy fuel such as jet or diesel fuel. (It should be noted that the technical objectives of the Outrider program included a heavy-fuel engine, which was subsequently scrapped, but did not include vertical take-off and landing capability.)

Second, the manner in which the Army is planning to fulfill its corps- and division-level UAV requirements during a regional conflict may not prove feasible. The Army intends to rely on the Predators being bought and operated by the Air Force (at least as of this writing). However, Predator will receive its assignments from the theater commander; thus, the needs of Army field commanders for information that UAVs are intended to provide are not likely to be met if other missions receive higher priority.

Third, there may be overlaps in the capability provided by Predator, Global Hawk, and Darkstar. By various performance measures, such as speed, operating altitude, payload, and range, Darkstar falls between the other two (see Summary Table 2). But Darkstar is intended to be more survivable than either of them because it will have stealth characteristics. However, it is not clear whether a substantial number of stealthy unmanned aerial vehicles are necessary. If not, Predator and Global Hawk might be able to perform many of Darkstar's intended missions.

SUMMARY TABLE 2. COMPARISON OF THE CAPABILITIES OF PREDATOR, DARKSTAR, AND GLOBAL HAWK

 

Predator

Darkstar

Global Hawk

 

Maximum Range (Kilometers)a

4,200

5,600

25,500

Operating Altitude (Feet)

10,000-25,000

40,000-45,000

55,000-65,000

Cruise Speed (Kilometers per hour)

120

463

639

Endurance at Radius

20 hours at 926 km

8 hours at 926 km

22 hours at 5,556 km

Payload (Pounds)

450

1,000

2,000

Survivability

?

?

?

 

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Department of Defense.

NOTE: km = kilometers.

a. Maximum range is the farthest the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can fly before running out of fuel. It differs from radius in that the tactical UAVs are limited to an operating radius far short of the range of the air vehicle because they communicate through line-of-sight links. Endurance UAVs are not limited to a particular radius because, when not in an autonomous mode, they communicate with their controllers by satellite.

 

DEVELOPING UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES WITH THE ACTD PROCESS

Developing unmanned aerial vehicles has not been easy. Technical challenges and growth of costs have led to a number of unsuccessful UAV programs. Unlike those past efforts, however, the UAVs under development today are using a different process, called Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. ACTDs are supposed to be small-budget, low-risk demonstrations of a new technology and are usually focused on meeting a specific requirement identified by the technology's intended users. The purpose of having an ACTD program that is separate from DoD's traditional acquisition and development process is to give developers a flexible management environment in which to experiment freely with new technologies and demonstrate their utility on the battlefield to commanders.

The current UAV development programs, however, are technologically ambitious. The Outrider program and the combined Global Hawk/Darkstar program have experienced numerous problems, including delayed schedules, growing costs, and the crash of a Darkstar. Predator, by contrast, moved relatively smoothly from the ACTD stage to low-rate initial production, perhaps because its contractor had an operational predecessor to work with as well as experience in integrating the many components that make up a working UAV system. Outrider, Global Hawk, and Darkstar represent much more difficult development projects. The troubles they have experienced are not atypical of acquisition programs, but those troubles come as a disappointment to people who expected ACTDs to be affordable and relatively quick demonstrations of proven technology.

ILLUSTRATIVE OPTIONS FOR DoD'S UAV PROGRAMS

The Congressional Budget Office has constructed five options to address the concerns that have been raised about DoD's UAV development efforts or to take greater advantage of the promise that UAVs appear to hold. Each option deals with a particular problem or aspect of the way the services or the Department of Defense are planning to develop, acquire, and use UAVs. Because they address only one particular issue of the UAV programs and missions, the options are not comparable with one another. Nor do they represent all of the possible ways to improve DoD's UAV programs; there are others that CBO did not consider. Moreover, the options were designed to address specific problems, not to generate savings.

Because many of the UAVs discussed in this paper are still in the ACTD phase and DoD has not yet committed to buying them in quantity, these options cannot be compared with an overall Administration plan. Decisions about acquisition must wait until the end of the UAVs' development and demonstration process. In the absence of concrete plans by the services or DoD to purchase particular UAVs in specific quantities, CBO compared its options--in terms of both cost and capability--with its assumption of what the services or DoD will eventually buy, based on information they provided. Furthermore, that comparison is predicated on the assumption that the UAVs now under development--Darkstar, Global Hawk, and Outrider--will all be ultimately successful and DoD will buy and deploy them.

CBO's options vary widely in their potential costs or savings (see Summary Table 3). The total for each option represents acquisition costs as well as operating and support costs over the assumed 15-year life of the UAVs. Estimates of operating and support costs should be treated with considerable caution, however. Those costs are difficult to estimate for systems that have not yet finished their development and that the services have not had much experience with.

SUMMARY TABLE 3. COSTS AND SAVINGS FOR FIVE ILLUSTRATIVE OPTIONS FOR UAVs (In millions of 1998 dollars)

 

Acquisition Costs

15-Year Operating and Support Costs

Total

 

Option I: Provide a UAV Capability to Brigade and Task-Force Commanders

 

 

 

 

 

 

DoD's Plana

860

 

930

 

1,790

Cost of Option IA

780

 

1,020

 

1,800

Cost or Savings (-) Compared with DoD's Planb

-80

 

90

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of Option IB

640

 

1,010

 

1,650

Cost or Savings (-) Compared with DoD's Plan

-220

 

80

 

-140

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option II: Provide a UAV Capability to Army Corps and Divisions Commanders

 

 

 

 

 

 

Army's Planc

0

 

 

0

Cost of Option II

250

 

500

 

750

Cost Compared with Army's Plan

250

 

500

 

750

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option III: Trade Off UAVs for Reconnaissance Helicopters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Army's Pland

31,500

 

6,600

 

38,200

Cost of Option III

27,700

 

6,000

 

33,700

Savings Compared with Army's Plan

-3,800

 

-700

 

-4,500

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option IV: Supplement JSTARS Coverage with UAVs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Force's Plan

1,700

 

4,300

 

6,000

Cost of Option IV

2,200

 

5,000

 

7,200

Cost Compared with Air Force's Plan

500

 

700

 

1,200

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option V: End Darkstar Production with the ACTD Vehicles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Force's Plana

2,600

 

1,900

 

4,600

Cost of Option V

2,000

 

1,600

 

3,600

Savings Compared with Air Force's Plan

-600

 

-400

 

-1,000

 

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.

NOTE: UAV = unmanned aerial vehicle; DoD = Department of Defense; JSTARS = Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System; ACTD = Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration.

a. CBO's assumed plan based on available information.

b. The new UAV for the Navy and Marine Corps represents about 60 percent of these costs. If one were to compare the Army component only and assume Outrider is procured as an Army-only system, buying Hunter instead of Outrider would save about $400 million in total costs.

c. The Army plans to use Predators bought and operated by the Air Force, so they will cost the Army nothing.

d. The costs of the Army's plan for Option III are based on the full Comanche program of 1,292 helicopters, not just the number used in cavalry troops.

 

Option I: Cancel Outrider or Make It Solely an Army System

The first option focuses on DoD's highest priority for unmanned aerial vehicles: giving the Army's brigade commanders a UAV capability. The option would accomplish that in either of two ways, both of which are alternatives to trying to fulfill Army, Navy, and Marine Corps UAV requirements with Outrider. Outrider has suffered a number of technical problems during its development process, including excess weight, inability to meet the Navy's requirements for take-off and landing distances, and a delay in the development of a diesel engine for the air vehicle until after the ACTD. Furthermore, by design Outrider will not be a vertical take-off and landing UAV, which would be far more suitable for shipboard operations. Consequently, both alternatives under Option I would separate the Army's UAV requirements from those of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Option IA would cancel the Outrider program. In lieu of that system, the Army would use Hunter--which was developed in the mid-1990s and terminated after the production of 56 air vehicles--to fulfill its brigade-level UAV requirements. For their part, the Navy and Marine Corps would buy a UAV with vertical take-off and landing capability and a heavy-fuel engine. (The Navy has been looking at several such systems.) This option would save about $80 million in acquisition costs compared with buying Outrider for all three services, but it would increase costs by a total of about $10 million when 15-year operating and support costs are included.

The primary advantages of Option IA are that it would give Army brigades a more capable UAV system in a shorter amount of time than the Outrider program would, and it would give the Navy and Marine Corps a UAV system better suited to coastal warfare. The disadvantages are that Hunter requires substantially more transport aircraft than Outrider to deploy, and the replacements purchased for UAVs lost through attrition will probably be more expensive with Hunter than with Outrider because Hunter has a larger and more capable air vehicle.

Option IB attempts to address the same problems as Option IA but in a different way: by favoring the Army at the expense of the Navy and Marine Corps. Despite its problems, Outrider appears capable of meeting the Army's brigade-level requirements; thus, Option IB would buy that system solely for the Army. The Navy and Marine Corps would continue to rely on Pioneer for their UAV requirements. This option would save around $140 million in acquisition and operating and support costs compared with buying Outrider for all three services. The savings stem mainly from not buying a replacement for Pioneer.

The advantage of Option IB is that the Army would get the UAV capability that it clearly wants. The disadvantage is that the Navy and Marines would have to continue relying on an old UAV system that requires a great deal of maintenance.

Option II: Use Hunter to Meet the Army's Division and Corps UAV Requirements

Option II is designed to address the problems that might arise if the Army relies on Predators controlled by the Air Force to meet its division and corps UAV requirements. After Hunter was terminated in January 1996, the Army was left without a system to carry out its division and corps UAV missions. The Army proposes relying on the Air Force's Predator. But the Air Force plans to buy only 12 Predator systems, and about half that number would probably deploy in the event of a regional conflict. The Air Force has stated that although it is willing to use Predator to support division and corps commanders, higher priorities could be set by the theater commander or the national command authority that could require most, if not all, of the Predator assets. If the Army sent two corps and seven divisions to a regional conflict--as it did in the Gulf War--it seems unlikely that the average division commander would get a prompt response to his request for a Predator to perform a reconnaissance mission. One possible solution to that problem is to give each division and corps its own UAV capability using the Hunter systems the Army has in storage.

Option II would provide a Hunter system of four air vehicles, two ground control stations, and support equipment to every division and a system of six air vehicles, three ground control stations, and support equipment to every corps. In addition, the Air Force would continue to procure Predator for theaterwide use. This option would cost $250 million more for acquisition than the Army's plan to rely on Air Force Predators (which would cost it nothing). Including operating and support costs for 15 years, the option's price tag would total $750 million.

The principal advantage of Option II is that the Army's corps and divisions would get their own UAV systems. The disadvantages are the cost and the additional logistics required to deploy and maintain those Hunter systems in the field. The Air Force's Predators would deploy to a regional conflict regardless of how the Army plans to fulfill its corps and division requirements. Thus, the logistics involved in getting the Hunter systems to a theater would represent an additional burden over what the Army would require today.

Option III: Buy Tilt-Rotor UAVs and Reduce the Army's Planned Comanche Helicopter Force

Could the Army benefit by deploying even more UAVs than it now plans? That is a difficult question to answer, but the Army Vice Chief of Staff did describe UAVs as a "major combat multiplier" after some exercises in which they played a prominent role. If more UAVs are deployed in the Army force structure, should they come at the expense of other assets, such as reconnaissance helicopters, or should they be in addition to them? As part of the development process for the Comanche reconnaissance helicopter, the Army was directed to analyze the "trade-offs" between the Comanche and unmanned aerial vehicles. While the Army is studying that issue, CBO has developed an option that would substitute tilt-rotor UAVs for many of the helicopters in the Army's cavalry aviation units. This option would save around $3.8 billion in acquisition costs and $700 million in 15-year operating and support costs.

The principal drawback of Option III is that the UAVs substituted into Army units in place of Comanches would not be armed. Thus, this option would sacrifice substantial combat capability. Aside from the money it would save, the advantage of this option is that in some ways the tilt-rotor UAVs are more capable reconnaissance platforms than the Comanche helicopters. They are about 15 percent faster and can watch an area five times longer before needing refueling. However, their line-of-sight communications link limits their radius of action to about 200 kilometers, whereas Comanches can travel much farther. However, UAVs are useful for more hazardous missions because they do not risk the lives of an aircrew.

Option IV: Use Global Hawk UAVs to Substitute for the Reduction of JSTARS

Option IV would provide additional Global Hawk UAVs to supplement the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) fleet. JSTARS is a joint Army/Air Force reconnaissance system that combines a powerful multimode ground-surveillance radar with command-and-control systems on board a 707 aircraft. The purpose of JSTARS is to detect mobile and stationary targets on the ground and transmit their locations to ground commanders and combat aircraft. DoD had planned to buy 19 such systems to provide continuous coverage of two theaters of combat simultaneously. The recent Quadrennial Defense Review, however, proposed reducing that planned purchase to 13 aircraft (plus one for testing).

In the Quadrennial Defense Review report, DoD argued that a fleet of 13 JSTARS aircraft would be able provide the round-the-clock coverage needed in a major theater war. In the event of a second war, some of the aircraft would have to be redeployed to the second theater, possibly opening gaps in coverage. The Department of Defense plans to "explore the potential for supplementing radar coverage of enemy force movements from long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles."(1) CBO's Option IV reflects that idea.

This option would supplement the reconnaissance capability of the reduced JSTARS fleet by buying some additional Global Hawks to support the JSTARS mission. The option would cost almost $500 million more in acquisition costs and $700 million in 15-year operating and support costs than the Air Force plans to spend on either the Global Hawk or JSTARS program. But in return for that additional cost the Air Force would get additional capability. In particular, because Global Hawk would not put an aircrew in jeopardy, it could be deployed far deeper into enemy territory than the JSTARS aircraft.

Option V: End Darkstar After the ACTD and Rely on Other Systems

CBO's last option would end production of Darkstar with the three air vehicles left over from the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. It seeks to address Congressional concerns about apparent overlaps in the unmanned aerial vehicle programs. Darkstar is a high-altitude UAV that is designed to have low-observable (stealthy) characteristics. It is intended to carry out a particular mission: collecting imagery over highly defended targets before an enemy's air defenses have been suppressed. In addition, because of its stealthy characteristics, it is likely to be useful in supporting special-operations forces.

Other than stealth, Darkstar is expected to be a less capable UAV than Global Hawk but more capable (except for endurance) than Predator (see Summary Table 2). The Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office and the Air Force have described Global Hawk as a highly capable but moderately survivable UAV, whereas Darkstar is a highly survivable but moderately capable UAV. The chief advantage of buying Darkstar, therefore, is to buy stealthy reconnaissance capability.

Option V would save $600 million in acquisition costs and another $400 million in 15 years of operation and support. In a sense, that is the price DoD and the Air Force appear willing to pay for stealth in an unmanned aerial vehicle. The advantage of this option is that it would save money. The disadvantage is that the Air Force would have only a limited stealthy UAV capability (just three air vehicles). However, other UAVs, such as Global Hawk and Predator, may be able to perform many of Darkstar's missions, albeit at a greater risk of being shot down by enemy air defenses. Furthermore, in light of the less threatening environment that the United States faces today compared with during the Cold War, ending the Darkstar program may be an acceptable risk to take.

1. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (May 1997), p. 45.

CHAPTER I

PROGRAMS AND MISSIONS FOR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

Many defense analysts argue that the nature of warfare and the way the United States will fight future wars are undergoing a fundamental transformation. They contend that the development of new technologies (such as stealthy aircraft, highly accurate precision munitions, and improved sensors for detecting, tracking, and identifying enemy forces) will work together to allow a force to dominate the battlefield completely--more so than has been achieved in the past, even during the Persian Gulf War. In short, that revolution in military affairs means having a monopoly on information about the battlefield, as well as the ability to attack and destroy an enemy while denying it the same capability.

The armed services have long had many different ways to collect battlefield intelligence. The scout on foot is probably the earliest example. Today, the U.S. military also uses sensors that are mounted on a variety of satellites, manned aircraft, helicopters, and ground vehicles to collect information. In the future, it also hopes to make greater use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry sensors.

UAVs, which have sometimes been referred to as drones, are relatively small aircraft that can be preprogrammed or operated by remote control. Many defense analysts view them as crucial to the success of the revolution in military affairs. In the course of one mission, a UAV can find, identify, and even direct a precision munition to a target--and then assess the damage done to that target after the munition has hit--without risking the lives of an aircrew. UAVs are also appealing to the military because different UAV systems can collect different types of information, such as tactical (or battlefield) intelligence and strategic (or longer-range) intelligence. In addition, UAVs may be able to perform such roles as relaying messages during a battle, locating or jamming enemy radar, or monitoring areas during peacekeeping missions.

The services are developing and plan to procure four new UAV systems: Predator, Darkstar, Global Hawk, and Outrider (see Table 1). Those programs, if ultimately successfully, promise to give battlefield commanders a valuable new reconnaissance capability as well as to enhance and perhaps eventually replace many sophisticated manned reconnaissance systems that provide intelligence to theater commanders and the national command authority (the President and the Secretary of Defense).

TABLE 1. MAJOR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE PROGRAMS

Program

Period

Description

Status

 

Lightning Bug

1964-1979

Reconnaissance drone first used by the Air Force during the Vietnam War

Retired

Aquila

1979-1987

Tactical UAV for Army commanders

Canceled

Amber

1984-1990

Classified endurance UAV

Canceled

Pioneer

1986-present

UAV originally acquired to assess battle damage by naval gunfire

Deployed

Medium Range

1987-1993

Tactical UAV for the Air Force and Navy

Canceled

Hunter

1988-1996

Joint tactical UAV

Canceled after LRIPa

Gnat-750

1988-present

Long-endurance UAV developed with CIA funding; exported commercially

Used for training and intelligence missions

Predator

1994-present

Long-endurance UAV for theater commanders; based on the Gnat-750

In LRIP

Darkstar

1994-present

Stealthy endurance UAV for high-threat environments

In development

Global Hawk

1994-present

High-altitude, long-range endurance UAV

In development

Outrider

1996-present

Joint tactical UAV

In development

 

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.

NOTE: UAV = unmanned aerial vehicle; LRIP = low-rate initial production; CIA = Central Intelligence Agency.

a. Seven systems--each equipped with eight air vehicles, four ground control stations, and support equipment--were initially placed in storage. Later, most of the equipment for two systems was removed and used in training exercises and in developing "concepts of operation" for UAVs.

 

Although the Congress generally supports UAV technology, it has expressed concern at the proliferation of UAV programs--particularly in light of their troubled technological history and the seeming inability of the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop and field a major UAV system. In analyzing DoD's current programs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has identified three key areas of concern. They are the suitability of some new UAVs for their intended missions, apparent overlaps in capability among different systems, and uncertainty about who will control UAVs on the battlefield.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF UAVs

UAVs, in one form or another, have had a checkered history in the U.S. military. Although the notion of using unmanned aircraft has been around since World War I, the United States did not begin seriously experimenting with unmanned reconnaissance drones until the late 1950s. That initial effort proved unsuccessful. Later, the Vietnam War and the Cold War spurred a variety of development programs, which led to several reconnaissance drones, such as the Firefly and Lightning Bug. Although those early UAVs were sometimes difficult to operate and maintain, the Air Force deployed them for a variety of missions, including gathering signals intelligence and collecting high- and low-altitude imagery both during the day and at night. By the end of the Vietnam War, concern about casualties meant that only two aircraft were allowed to fly reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam: the Lightning Bug UAV and a high-altitude, manned reconnaissance plane (the supersonic SR-71).

The urgent need for unmanned aerial vehicles ended with the Vietnam War, but the services remained interested in exploring the capabilities that those aircraft had to offer. In particular, the Army began developing a tactical UAV called Aquila in 1979. It suffered many growing pains (developmental problems, cost overruns, changes in requirements) and was finally canceled in 1987. During that time, the Israelis used very simple and cheap drones to good effect to destroy Syrian air defenses in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in 1982. Their success inspired then Secretary of the Navy John Lehman to push for his service to acquire UAVs, primarily to support targeting by, and conduct battle-damage assessment for, U.S. battleships. His efforts led the Navy and Marine Corps to acquire nine Pioneer UAV systems, which are still in use today. Those systems have been employed in many U.S. operations since the 1980s, including the Gulf War and Bosnia. In addition, the armed forces, particularly the Marine Corps, have used some very small UAVs, such as the Exdrone, in both operations and training.

In recent years, the Pentagon has started a number of other UAV development programs. Two of them--Medium Range and Hunter--were ultimately canceled. Another UAV, Predator, is now being acquired by the Air Force. And three others--Darkstar, Global Hawk, and Outrider--are still in development. DoD officials appear more optimistic about this group of UAVs than about earlier ones, partly because advances in technologies such as miniaturization make developing UAVs easier, and partly because the developers now have more experience in integrating all of the components that compose a UAV system (such as the air vehicle, ground support equipment, sensors or other payloads, and communications equipment).

THE ROLE OF UAVs IN FUTURE WARFARE

When DoD or the services attempt to envision the future of warfare, UAVs play an important role in their vision. One of the central conceptsin predictions about future warfare is the so-called revolution in military affairs. That term describes a group of technologies (long-range precision munitions; stealthy aircraft "platforms"; real-time, all-weather, day-and-night reconnaissance and targeting; and integration of command and control among the services) that, once combined, produce a major leap in a unit's fighting power. The revolution in military affairs also includes innovations in strategy, operations, and tactics, which in turn are reflected in the training programs of the services. For example, one priority of that revolution is being able to mass fire from widely dispersed forces to have a concentrated effect on one location. Achieving that requires having improved reconnaissance, communications, and precision-strike capabilities, as well as new tactics that must be incorporated into training programs.

The official vision statement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2010, fully embraces the revolution in military affairs. A crucial component of Joint Vision 2010 is the importance of information superiority--the ability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an enemy's ability to do the same. UAVs are likely to be crucial in achieving information superiority, particularly because they can collect information that in the past would have been di 

Derniers articles

Verdun 2016 : La légende de la « tranchée des baïonnettes »
Eyes in the Dark: Navy Dive Helmet Display Emerges as Game-Changer
OIR Official: Captured Info Describes ISIL Operations in Manbij
Cyber, Space, Middle East Join Nuclear Triad Topics at Deterrence Meeting
Carter Opens Second DoD Innovation Hub in Boston
Triomphe de St-Cyr : le Vietnam sur les rangs
Dwight D. Eisenhower Conducts First OIR Missions from Arabian Gulf
L’amiral Prazuck prend la manœuvre de la Marine
Airmen Practice Rescuing Downed Pilots in Pacific Thunder 16-2
On ne lutte pas contre les moustiques avec une Kalachnikov...
Enemy Mine: Underwater Drones Hunt Buried Targets, Save Lives
Daesh Publications Are Translated Into Eleven Languages
Opération Chammal : 10 000 heures de vol en opération pour les Mirage 2000 basés en Jordanie
Le Drian : Daech : une réponse à plusieurs niveaux
Carter: Defense Ministers Agree on Next Steps in Counter-ISIL Fight
Carter Convenes Counter-ISIL Coalition Meeting at Andrews
Carter Welcomes France’s Increased Counter-ISIL Support
100-Plus Aircraft Fly in for Exercise Red Flag 16-3
Growlers Soar With B-1s Around Ellsworth AFB
A-10s Deploy to Slovakia for Cross-Border Training
We Don’t Fight Against Mosquitoes With a Kalashnikov
Bug-Hunting Computers to Compete in DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge
Chiefs of US and Chinese Navies Agree on Need for Cooperation
DoD Cyber Strategy Defines How Officials Discern Cyber Incidents from Armed Attacks
Vice Adm. Tighe Takes Charge of Information Warfare, Naval Intelligence
Truman Strike Group Completes Eight-Month Deployment
KC-46 Completes Milestone by Refueling Fighter Jet, Cargo Plane
Air Dominance and the Critical Role of Fifth Generation Fighters
Une nation est une âme
The Challenges of Ungoverned Spaces
Carter Salutes Iraqi Forces, Announces 560 U.S. Troops to Deploy to Iraq
Obama: U.S. Commitment to European Security is Unwavering in Pivotal Time for NATO
International Court to Decide Sovereignty Issue in South China Sea
La SPA 75 est centenaire !
U.S. to Deploy THAAD Missile Battery to South Korea
Maintien en condition des matériels : reprendre l’initiative
La veste « léopard », premier uniforme militaire de camouflage
Océan Indien 2016 : Opérations & Coopération
Truman Transits Strait of Gibraltar
Navy Unveils National Museum of the American Sailor
New Navy, Old Tar
Marcel Dassault parrain de la nouvelle promotion d’officiers de l’École de l’Air
RIMPAC 2016 : Ravitaillement à la mer pour le Prairial avant l’arrivée à Hawaii
Bataille de la Somme, l’oubliée
U.S., Iceland Sign Security Cooperation Agreement
Cléopatra : la frégate Jean Bart entre dans l’histoire du BPC Gamal Abdel Nasser
Surveiller l’espace maritime français aussi par satellite
America's Navy-Marine Corps Team Fuse for RIMPAC 2016
Stratégie France : Plaidoyer pour une véritable coopération franco-allemande
La lumière du Droit rayonne au bout du chemin





Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

Contact