Pentagon Plans for Cuts to Drone Budgets

Pentagon Plans for Cuts to Drone Budgets

The Pentagon didn’t expect to see the major budget cuts the U.S. military has received over the past two years that has forced Pentagon leaders to update planning documents such as the Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap.

The 2013 update released right before the New Year takes into account those cuts while also emphasizing the need to keep up with advances by countries like China and Iran in the drone market.

“This roadmap is two years since the last one. We knew budgets would be declining. I don’t think two years ago we understood how significant the down slope was going to be so this road map much more clearly addresses the fiscal challenges,” Dyke Weatherington, DoD’s director of unmanned warfare and ISR, told Military​.com in an interview.

Overall, the fiscal year 2014 budget requests $4.1 billion for all unmanned systems, citing $3.7 billion for unmanned air systems, $13 million for ground systems and $330 million for maritime systems, respectively.

While the 2015 budget is still a work in progress and not yet released, Weatherington said there will likely be additional cuts to unmanned systems in the new request.

“We can generally say that from 2014 to 2015 the budget in the capability area will be reduced,” he added. “Within the department we are being very judicious about where we are putting our investment dollars and our current dollars.”

Weatherington noted that funds for UAS have been declining in recent years, saying that there was about a 24-percent reduction from 2012 to 2013 and a 30-percent reduction from 2013 to 2014.

While counterinsurgency and counter terrorism are still very much part of the equation, the Pentagon’s shift to the Pacific and overall Defense Strategy articulates a need to be prepared for more technologically advanced potential adversaries.

When it comes to anti-access/area-denial or more contested areas, Weatherington said some UAS might need to be modified or upgraded with electronic warfare technology in order to operate. However, he also referred to something he called strike packages, instances where manned and unmanned aircraft could work in tandem with long range strike assets, jamming and electronic warfare gear in order to access contested areas.

Weatherington said more manned-unmanned teaming is likely in the future.

“EW is one of those areas where we are going to see opportunities for unmanned systems, likely in tandem with manned systems to add real value to what the warfighter’s requirements are today. The combination of unmanned systems with our already installed base of manned systems gives you more flexibility than you can get out of any single system,” Weatherington explained.

UAS with greater range and endurance will be developed and emphasized in years to come, given the shift in focus toward the vast geographical expanse of the Pacific theater, he said.

“For scenarios that pit us against near-peer kinds of adversaries, range and endurance tend to be a premium — especially in the Pacific theater of operations. The distances are very long and basing is more limited than other places around the world. Systems that provide flexibility in range, flexibility in endurance generally score pretty high to fulfill capability needs that the combatant commanders have,” Weatherington added.

The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike UAS, a carrier-launched aircraft now being developed for the future, represents the kinds of technologies needed to increase range and endurance, Weatherington said.

Meanwhile, greater interoperability and autonomy for unmanned systems are also key areas of focus for the UAS roadmap, Weatherington said.

Standardizing the waveforms data and video use to transmit information can greatly help interoperability, Weatherington added. For instance, standardizing data formats would allow a soldier or airmen viewing UAS video feeds on a Rover device or One System Remote Video Terminal to see video from a greater number of UAS in the area.

Furthermore, the roadmap says UAS should follow the lead of manned aerial platforms which have “settled on common armament interface units, bomb racks and logistics.”

At the same time, the roadmap says future unmanned maritime systems, both surface and underwater technologies, are likely to rise in numbers despite declining budgets. In particular, the roadmap sites the emerging Littoral Combat Ship as a platform expected to utilize several kinds of UAS.

Citing the success of the catapult-launched Scan Eagle and Integrator UAS systems currently in service with the Marine Corps and the Navy, Weatherington said greater numbers of small, ship-launched UAS platforms are likely in the future.

Weatherington also addressed concerning trends regarding handheld, micro-UAS.  A quick assessment of the Pentagon’s UAS inventory numbers reveals that the vast majority of systems, nearly 10,000, are in the small UAS category, according to DoD figures.

There are currently 7,362 Ravens, 990 WASPs, 1,137 Pumas and 306 T-Hawks – all small UAS. By contrast there are only 246 Predators and Gray Eagles, 126 Reapers, 491 Shadows and 33 Global Hawks – to cite a few from the larger categories.

The possible swarming of small UAS is a potential trend being recognized by DoD as both a risk and tactical advantage.

In fact, since they are small, cheap, easy to operate and available on the global market, small UAS are likely to be used by enemies of the U.S. as well, Weatherington said.

Weatherington said the Pentagon is already working on the next UAS roadmap, which will include greater exploration of stealth capabilities, cutting-edge or new materials and self-defense systems for UAS.

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Department of Defense. (2013). Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap: FY2013-2038. Retrieved from http://​www​.defense​.gov/​p​u​b​s​/​D​O​D​-​U​S​R​M​-​2​0​1​3​.​pdf

Of course, the rated-officer aircrews will always get protection instead of a hyper-efficient means of combat or surveillance flying platform. The drone programs themselves save money due to the mere fact that, when they are not flying, there is no idle pilot sitting at the BX/PX food court still collecting flight pay and exorbitant salaries. Really intelligent budget planning. Huh? Probably derived by another rated-officer flying a desk and collecting flight pay. Perhaps a computer should make these budgeting decisions, instead.

Rather see more money put into manned systems anyway so this is not a BIG deal at all. Lets keep our troops ready not just waste it on manless spy drones.

With 1.337 million men and women in the Active U.S. military and another 841,000 in the National Guard and Reserves, we need to find cheaper but as effective alternatives in an age of low-threat, high-cost military budgets. The idea we need 2.2 people in the U.S. military to fight a war on terrorism is overblown. You have a greater chance of being hit by an asteroid than being killed by a terrorist. The risk is SO low, it’s not even an insurable event. So why are we spending so much money on “national security?” A new entitlement program?

The ONLY Program that needs to be CUT in the here at the DOD is JSF!!! Drones/UAV’s and TLAM/TACTOM are more effect with less risk… When you can identify a target either stationary or moving you can destroy any HVT or Target on the Battlefield at 1/99th the Cost. We are Lockheed Martin and the Senator of Texas Wealth Managers instead of Warfighters…

Manned systems today are in such a state that the pilot barely understands 20% of the information flowing through the cockpit, what is happening to the other 80%? Most likely wasted because manned aviation still thinks linearly, i.e. what information does the pilot need to be successful. There is a need for manned aviation, but what the UAS brings is the ability to access and then distribute information throughout the battle space, persistently. So it is not a DHS or anit-terrorist “thing”, it is 21st Century operations at the speed of information/cyber/spectrum. Hopefully DoD thinking will permit stability in this force multiplier.

I think that we should be putting as much money as we can into these laser weapons. The possibilities of their use seem endless. Combine them with a UA and you’ve got a pretty powerful weapon. Thought of on the defensive front, the accuracy of interception would seem to be a huge step forward from rockets.

Not to mention the long term financial savings over traditional explosives and bullets.


What are the limitations of the UAS?

Your “analysis” lacks a very important perspective as you typically and mindlessly make the case for a smaller military. MOST of the counter insurgent fighting has to happen on the ground. That’s where the intel is, the bad guys, the terrain, population and infrastructure that must be protected to establish gov’t legitimacy and defeat the enemy. This is also the where most of our personnel, wounded and dead are generated but of the $4.1 billion spent on all unmanned systems, $13 million or .3% is spent on ground systems.

Part of the reason is it’s exponentially more difficult to use robots on the ground and hence the “entitlement programs” called the Army and the Marines.

Assuming you can identify the target, how do you know if a person is a target or an innocent civilian?

Really? What do they do with those drone operators? Last time I checked your Reaper class UAV takes something like 3x the number of people to deploy than an F-16. Unmanned only means there is not a guy in the aircraft. They still have an operator, ground crew etc. Not only that, but you need a both a Launch/Recovery Element (takeoff and landing under local control) and a remote mission system element, and a team of network engineers to make it all happen. What makes them efficient is that they are single engine turboprops with a high aspect ratio wing. The unmanned part gives them endurance which is not comfortable for a manned operator, but it doesn’t make them cheaper.

Wow, a bunch of clueless comments here. The current crop of unmanned systems (Predator/Reaper/GreyEagle/Scaneagle etc) are great for the effort formerly known as GWOT. A permissive environment with no real threat other than small arms and targets no harder than a bunker or pickup truck. They would be less than useless against any credible threat. You don’t even have to go to “near-peer”. A ton of money has been dumped into these things and I think it is time to step back and take a look at what we really need.

Second — Unmanned systems are not cheaper. In fact, in virtually all cases they are more expensive. Is an MQ-9 cheaper than an F-15E? Sure. Is it cheaper than another single engine turboprop like a Super Tucono? No! If you think you are going to get a two engine 80,000lb MTOW supersonic UAV for less than a manned aircraft you are deluding yourself.

Nothing you say has anything to do with manned vs unmanned. The UAS has no better inherent ability to “distribute information throughout the battle space” than a manned platform. Manned aircraft have been using data links to do this for years. What you see with UAS is that because everything is done remotely there is a requirement to pump all the sensor data offboard, while in manned aircraft you traditionally have a filter (man) that selects what to send. This is a design decision made based on the traditional bandwidth limitations of available data-links over the years and has nothing to do with manned vs unmanned. There is certainly no technical reason you could not pump all the sensor data from an FA-18 or F-15 offboard just like a Reaper, and you would still have a stick monkey to drop the bombs when the satellite link goes down.

Expenses depend on how you measure it. Initial purchase the UAVs are cheaper, per hour they are cheaper, also cheaper in terms of logistic support. Cost per year depends on how many hours they are flown. Also, let us not overlook the costs saved by not putting our servicemember’s lives at risk.

The army doesn’t do counter-insurgency any more. Its given up broken by Afghanistan and Iraq.

Exactly. If you compare the initial purchase cost of a Scan Eagle to an F-15, the UAV is cheaper. If you compare an MQ-9 to a combat Caravan.….well not so much. And a combat Caravan can operate out of any half finished dirt strip in the world with a support team of about 5, including the aircrew.

Current crops of UAVs are cheaper because they are cheaper airplanes, not because they are unmanned. Build a manned aircraft with similar parts (AHRLAC) and it is going to be as cheap to buy and cheaper to operate.

Im an UAS Operator for the US Army I hated UAS growing up first of all a drone is something that flys its self so your definition is simply that of a civilian secondly Thoses Reapers the AirForce have never leave the AirStrip like you said there to expesive but Mq-1 Preditor I know from my MOS can stay up alot longer then a Manned system and my main purpose isnt to blow up anything its to give exact and real time logilistics for maybe your son daughter or someone you love so they can live to see the next day thats why casulties have droped by more then 90% since the Persian Gulf War I can tell someone the exact size of your shadow in a forest at dusk and so you understand Army is deployed with the ground forces so yea I get shot at

Why dont you look up DARPA and its hypersonic weaponry to fly in a weapon at 68 70 Machs being a UAS it can also be guided into its target anywhere in the world quicker then pizza dilivery it doesnt leave orbit so it cant be called a ICBM and you could hit a ICBM on take off which takes 30min to leave to earth and 5 to 10 more min to fall on its target which would also put the US in no fear of Nuclear Weaponry anymore now try shooting one of these out of a railgun like the US Navy is about to start fitting on there ships ill let it up though so you can understand the Stratigic value of UAS in this field

Classified Dont ask

wow didnt realize that thanks

Yep, more brilliant analysis from DoDBuzz’ resident troll.

The defense establishment apologist called you a troll. Wow, that must really sting in a totally amusing way.

A UAS (or RPA, depending upon who you talk to) IS NOT a drone. That is a ephemism that the media constructed. An RPA has someone behind the lens, a drone is a target. Drones invariably do not return to it’s launch point. In Viet Nam we fitted “drones” with cameras and picked them up in the ocean when they ran out of fuel. They had few course adjustments available to them and didn’t give real time situational awareness nor could they drop ordinance on targets without their own destruction (they drone being the ordinance itself). The “MQ” RPA’s utilize two operators while “RQ“s can use one or in some cases none (those are not drones either as they have an “inteligence” that decides their course and actions). Autonomous RPA’s will be something to watch for in the future and that isn’t a comforting thought, think “SkyNet”…

I’ve seen the footage and talked to the operators and it really isn’t that difficult to determine who’s doing what when our guys spend days and/or weeks observing before acting. When they see chemical heat and weapons it’s kind of a no brainer…

As have I. The body counts tells a different story.

We’re opening up pandoras box again. Once we start doing something like spying on other nations using this type of technology, it opens the doors for other countries to do the same to us—its a costly game of tit-for-tat. I’m sick and tired of pouring BILLIONS upon BILLIONS upon BILLIONS of money we don’t have into technologies that will produce a negative counter-affect to a society that demands an open and honest government “Of the People, For the People, By the People.” Our country didn’t aspire to greatness because of a military, it was to get rid of it and through revolt of The People who tired of an oppressive militant King (revolutionaries) they accomplished Independence. The People didn’t stop here and though numerous revolutions Abolition (slavery), Suffrage (right to vote), Unions/labor, Civil Rights, etc. America became the beacon of FREEDOM that millions around the world fled to be apart of! Over the past few decades we have been slowly regressing towards a militant secret society that defiles the US Constitution, the foundation of our rights and freedoms. History has taught the world many lessons over many centuries and those who forget these lessons are doomed to repeat them if The People are not constantly on guard and restraining the government. Sorry, but we’re acting more like Nazi Germany and Communistic Russia than a Federal Republic governed by the Sovereign States through an by its People—The United States of America.

Now you are talking about THE COMBINED FORCES :Military socialism and VULTURE CRONY CAPITALISM

Which body count are you referring to?

It’s really a form of socialism prevalent in Europe at the turn of the 18th century called fas cism. The government picks the winners and losers and private “companies” provide the labor. If you’ve ever read War and Peace, it’s very much the kind of socialism Russia had before the communist revolution. The Czar gave control of various social institution to one of the noble families and they provided the goods and services required (more or less) and pocketed as much of the budget allocated for that service as possible. It inventively leads to a society of very rich and very poor were the government barely functions due to the obvious conflict of interest that exists in the provision of services. Orwell wrote Animal Farm as an allegory about how communism inevitably breaks down into fas cism — not into capitalism as many seem to misinterpret the story. Communism is a much more efficient form of socialism due to the basic assumption of equality of men. Fas cism has the huge burden of supporting the very entitled rich in the manner they become accustomed to.

The tendency now is to make all manned vehicles optionally unmanned. That way they can maximize the cost of development and keep the old line defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed happy. All manned vehicles now are equipped with the computers, servos and communications required to fly them autonomously. Essentially that’s what an FMS (flight management system) is. A modern FMS can take off, fly a route, and land a vehicle now. Ground controllers can update the flight plan en route, though usually with pilot authorization. The pilot is only along in case of contingencies. Getting rid of the pilot simply means getting rid of the contingency mode where the FMS hands over control when it is adequately confused.


Page down a little bit, they have a rundown…

Ask the foot soldiers. The drones were there to sniff out threats and request strike missions and inform the foot soldiers of the intel. This saved countless lives and stiff do today. Just because you don’t read any news stories that is a good thing. The missions are classified and only when a civilian casuality occurs do you hear anything. Yet the terrorists kill hundreds, with bombs, small arms, and missile strikes. This is all in the name of Jihad and islam. However that is okay to the world. The drones go slower and don’t endanger pilots or there multi million dollar planes.

Louisburg, you have no clue. Pretend you have some other job.


Yea, that is the popular line, but the reality is that FMS works great for going from point A to point B, not so much for taking a 9-line and hitting a CAS target on time.

That’s like calling Tomahawk a UAS. Waverider and similar have a lot of promise, but they are definitely not there yet.

Technically the budget should be going down, startup R&D have extreme costs. Last I checked these things work, so it should be in production now building more drones for the same or less money.

That’s true, and the “looking through a soda straw” view the remote operator gets from the out-the-window camera is hardly a replacement for eyes in an air vehicle. Those are the limitations of UAV’s, but on the other hand a UAV can be sent to a location where you really don’t want to lose a crew and you definitely won’t lose a crew. The cut in the budget for UAV’s has more to do with maximizing the amount of money flowing to the big contractors instead of making the best use of resources. Right now UAV’s are cheap compared to manned vehicles. There’s no way the Lockheeds and Boeings of this world are going to allow that to continue.

They’d have to shut down the whole Pentagon to get rid of all the DRONES. Then, they’d just find other government jobs!

Guest you sound very jealous of those earning more than you.…Which has become a US illness thanks to ALL agendas enforced by the current Administration by order of the White House… His AGENDA has always been to destroy initiatives, qualities, and high performances that are so superior to those who he persists on protecting and showering other people’s money.… So it is now with Characters of the individuals being jealous of one another, sort of creating an implosion of the middle class by the lower classes.…??? I expect the peanut gallery crowd will jump on this comment, in no time at all.…same crowds, same replies, and same peanuts for brains.… Can’t make critical comments about the current White House residence now can we???

Seems to me that it wouldn’t be hard to convert a JSF a drone.

The airborne laser was a flop…if we couldn’t even get a laser interceptor weapon on an airliner-sized aircraft, what hope is there of putting one on a drone anytime soon?

Speaking of drones and lasers though, I would imagine that lasers might be a good way of defending against terrorist drone attacks without potentially showering 20mm shells over populated areas.

Pretty much fighting any kind of war means we have to violate some part of our democratic principles. The question a society must ask then, is whether a particular threat is dire enough to make such a tradeoff, and to what extent should that tradeoff be? Having said that though, I really don’t think we’re at at the level of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

To the first part of your comment, what makes you think UAVs couldn’t be used in a less than permissive environment? If history is true that a stealth UAV was operated within Iranian airspace, then UAVs already are in less than permissive environments. What about the UAVs that have operated in Libya? Might also consider that if someone is operating in a hazardous environment, the air assets are going to be working in strike packages, similar to UAVs in Libya and the Persian Gulf operating with fighter escort. From the perspective of the adversary, either air intercept fighter or SAM, which are you going to be more worried about?

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