Boeing: Drone market will shrink

Boeing: Drone market will shrink

ST. LOUIS — The unmanned aircraft market will shrink once U.S. troops complete their scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, said Boeing Military Aircraft President Christopher Chadwick.

Boeing analysts expect the UAV market to shrink by 20 percent in 2014, Chadwick said. That’s not to say military aviation will return to manned aircraft and shirk the advances seen the past five years in growing unmanned fleets.

Chadwick expects U.S. Air Force leaders to keep pursuing the development of more drones, especially ones to support persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.


The U.S. Navy recently stood up its first Fire Scout squadron. Navy leaders also continue to develop the Unmanned Combat Air System to fly off air craft carriers.

Marine Corps leaders have made major investments in pursuit of a cargo drone. The Corps has deployed Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX drone to positive reviews thus far. The Army has watched the development of the K-MAX closely.

What has changed is military leaders have a better idea of what drones they want to fly. To meet combat demands, the services rushed a range of drones to Iraq and Afghanistan to test which ones would prove most effective.

“The customer is starting to define where they need [UAVs],” Chadwick said.

Afghanistan and Iraq provided the U.S. military two arenas to test unmanned aircraft and how the services plan to use them, Chadwick explained. Following the end of the withdrawal in 2014, the operational test arena will disappear and drones orders will decrease.

Many defense analysts have suggested that drones could redefine electronic attack aircraft. Chadwick questions whether the services will be willing to fly electronic attacks without pilots on board.

The U.S. Navy is transitioning from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18 Growler. A Prowler has a crew of one pilot and three electronic countermeasure officers. A Growler has a crew of two consisting of a pilot and an electronic warfare officer.

“It took a decade to convince the Navy to go from four to two and then to go unmanned, we’ll see,” Chadwick said.

The issue is information management. Navy leaders believe an electronic attack aircraft still needs to have people on board, especially an electronic warfare officer.

“No one has cracked the code of data analytics yet,” Chadwick said.

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Its natural in most regular conflicts unmanned plane cannot replace maned planes so this is expected.

The rq-170 that crashed in Iran is much less problematic than a U2 gunned down and having its pilot captured. Limitation of drones will only improve with time. There are also tons of use for drones in the civilian market.

Its impossible to replace all the fighters with poor subsonic drone who will be shot in air to air fight by fighters like the T-50 or J-20 it will be a terrible strategic mistake to put all the Air force on drone.

Hello Sidius

I agree that the unmanned aircraft will be too impossible to replace all manned fighters, with poor subsonic drones who will be shot in air to air fight by fighters like the Su-27/30 family, T-50, MiG-29/35 family, J-20, J-10, J-21? and also advanced SAMs and AAA sites. Indeed, it will be a terrible strategic mistake to put all the Air Force on all drone fleet.

For ISR and CAS roles, subsonic drones are ideal for those missions.

@ Sidius

Unmanned aircraft replacing all manned fighters will degrade the Air Force further and this will show that the Air Force can’t do anything.

I follow this guys blog as closely as I follow DoDBuzz (great work guys!), he consistently hits it on the head. Check out his stuff on drones etc. I found him through an article in Rolling Stone, happy I did. He comments about this post actually, I think this went up yesterday. Cheer and seriously I love your work, especially the LCS “jam session” metaphor. I passed that one around to a bunch of ex Navy fighter jock buddies of mine! http://​aviationintel​.com/​2​0​1​2​/​0​9​/​1​5​/​d​r​o​n​e​-​m​a​r​ket–

Nobody has mentioned of realistically replacing AF fighters with unmanned aircraft…technology just isn’t there yet. But the reliance on manned aviation for fear of pilots losing their jobs (apparant current USAF unstated rationale for the cut to the RQ-4 and the decreased purchase numbers for the MQ-9) is short sighted. THe future is clearly pointing towards unmanned aviation taking over those roles that are dangerous or exceedingly dull. Communications relay mission and long range, long duration surveillance are two that come to mind.

The criminal lies given in the Pentagon by the USAF for the long term extension of the increasingly expensive U-2 spy plan must be explained. Why nobody has questioned the USAF on how the U-2 will ever be able to meet the needs of the DOD in the Pacific hints at cover-up. I would not be suprised if some action officer at the Pentagon sold his boss a bill of good on how the U-2 can take all the money from unmanned systems to make itself look better. Check the budget — I bet we see the U-2 costs going up next year. So much for a cheap alternative using Cold War technology. And how many pilots have gone down with decompression sickness this year?

Dude the U-2 won’t ever be shot down becuase WE have systems to prevent that. Just admit that a computer will never replace the ultimate computer — the human brain.

We lost 2 U-2s to hostile fire in the 1960s.

Where do you see the U-2 being increasingly expensive? The U-2 is slowly being replaced by the Global Hawk, but hasn’t yet because the Global Hawk is still more expensive than the U-2 to operate. The Air Force was even talking about cancelling an order of Hawks because their costs were going up. The RQ-170 Sentinel is already replacing the U-2 in South Korea so I don’t know where you’re getting your Pacific theater issues from.

Currently, there are no drones in service that are specifically Air to Air combat capable, that is not to say they are not in development, or that prototypes are not being tested at this time. Michael makes a good point, the risk to the pilot is always of consideration. If the pilot is captured, or if the pilot is lost, it represents economic, military, and political loss. A drone can self destruct sensitive electronics on-board to protect such technology. Obvious the drone captured by Iran did not have a fail safe, where lose of control to a third party would eventually result in a self destruct, as hackers would not be able to enter a continuance code required at random time intervals by the device for continued operation (denial of asset via hacking or ECM tactics). I think unmanned combat drone are going to be the future of air combat, specially when we consider that anti-aircraft missile technology is about to experience an advancement in capability, that would render most, if not all, 4G and 5G air craft vulnerable, unless they are able to turn off their engines, become 100% silent, and still be able to fly… LOL. This is why combat drone development is very important to maintain national defense; the ratio to replace drones vs. pilots is a no-brainer, specially with the development of faster, smaller, stealthier drone combat units for future us. They will still need to develop autonomous logic for the combat drone, so it can fully operate a mission, with or without communications contact to its designated pilot.

Most commenters are saying that drone technology is not yet able to replace manned aircraft in the air-to-air role. I would concur. Current use of UAVs is in a permissive environment. In contested airspace, network latencies make use of UAVs unfeasible at present.

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