Now that the dust has settled from last week’s release of PB13, it’s time to stake stock of the impact on the DoD’s plans for UAVs. As I mentioned in my previous blog, even before PB13 was released we knew the Air Force had made the decision to terminate procurement of block 30 Global Hawks in favor of the manned U-2 Dragon Lady and subsequent procurement of block 40 Global Hawks. Nothing new to report there, although we can certainly expect Northrop Grumman to continue to press the DoD for an alternative solution. So, here is the UAV breakdown for each of the services. Bean counters of the world, enjoy…
By and large the Air Force took the biggest hit last week. In addition to the aforementioned block 30 Global Hawk termination, the Reaper fleet will see substantial reductions, as the DoD decided to extend the service life of MQ-1B Predators. Also, the Air Force just announced that it has no intention of moving forward in the near term with MQ-X, the Reaper replacement program that was set to come online in FY17. Check out this article to read more and this photo to see an MQ-9A Reaper.
The Navy also did not escape completely unscathed. MRMUAS (Medium-Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System) was canceled in lieu of the successful RQ-8B Fire Scout and its larger, more capable brother, the MQ-8C Fire Scout – click here to read more. Overall procurement for Fire Scout through FY16 is down compared to PB12 plans, but the Navy seems fully committed to long-term utilization of the platform. Similarly, BAMS will also see less procurement through FY16. See a photo of an MQ-8C Fire Scout here.
The story for the Army is slightly different. Although procurement is down overall for FY13, the numbers are well ahead of PB12 plans through FY16. The vast majority of that difference stems from increased purchases of the RQ-11B Raven. No Army UAV programs have been outwardly canceled as of yet, though it will be interesting to see what happens now that MRMUAS is no longer. The Army was essentially leveraging it as an AoA for a VTOL UAV. Check out this article to read more and this photo to see a RQ-11B Raven.
All in all, some winners and losers in terms of PB13 plans for UAVs. One program of note, UCLASS, remains a key focal point not only for the Navy, but also for the Air Force – click here to read more. Essentially, the Air Force will watch how UCLASS unfolds and then decide upon a follow strategy for UCAVs. Of course, this assumes only non-proprietary programs. Any programs and platforms in the classified world are…well… classified. See a photo of an X-47B UCAS-D Fire Scout here.