Naval aviation, both afloat and ashore, is likely to become a more vertical force in the future. There will be increased reliance on air vehicles, both manned and unmanned, with short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL), vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) characteristics that have excellent payload, range, and low-signature capabilities. Takeoff and landing footprints will be much less than today's conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, thereby opening up design space for future aircraft carrier development.
Naval aviation will employ UAVs for a variety of missions, beginning with reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting, and later expanding to include such familiar aircraft carrier (CV) support tasks as tanking, electronic warfare (EW), antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and airborne early warning (AEW). Some of these unmanned aircraft will fly from aviation ships and surface combatants, whereas others, some possibly operated by the Air Force, may be based ashore at great distances from the supported battle group or expeditionary task force. As UAVs become more reliable and gain operational acceptance, unmanned tactical aircraft will be employed for selected lethal purposes, both air-to-air and ground attack. The panel believes that the introduction of unmanned tactical aircraft as substitutes for today's fighter and attack planes will be a slow ''fly-before-buy" process, and that a place will remain in the naval aviation arsenal for piloted tactical aircraft for many years to come.
The introduction of subsonic, stealthy-when-required, aerial trucks is seen as a major positive development for the future. These aircraft—manned and unmanned—and employing STOVL, VTOL, and in many instances, STOL capabilities could constitute the backbone of naval aviation for the missions cited above. These workhorses would be mission configured using modular packages that could be changed in a reasonable time aboard ship and at advanced shore bases.
Because of the trend toward a more vertical force of aircraft with attendant reduced demands for takeoff and landing deck space, the spectrum of acceptable