The VTOL UAV and UCAV-N are both near-term programs that address important naval UAV issues of how to permit a UAV/UCAV to operate from a ship, but they pay minimal attention to maximizing the benefits of autonomy. Both, for practical reasons, will inevitably be implemented with today's concepts and technology and are supported by large budgets of tens of millions of dollars per year or more.

The FNC thrusts are intended “. . . to provide critical mass investments . . . leading to transition of key enabling technologies.”1 Twenty percent of the FNC funding is targeted for the 2001-2003 time frame, with the rest aimed further out. As such, the two relevant FNCs, time-critical strike and autonomous operation, seem to complement ONR 351's UAV/UCAV intentions rather well, but both are broader in scope than UAV technology alone; current plans appear to be to fund them very well ($30 million to $50 million per year each).

Given the very large imbalance in funding and the competition for resources engendered by the heavy colocation of multiple UAV/FNC responsibility in the ONR 351 organization, there is a real danger that the small grass-roots UAV/UCAV thrust begun last year could simply vanish. Given as well the uniqueness of the ONR 351 long-range vision and systematic approach, and the potential value of what ONR 351 is attempting, it does not seem desirable to simply permit this effort to die. It should, instead, be recognized as a valuable resource and should be coordinated, transformed, and completed, to allow it to serve as the basis for (or at least a major contributor to) the development of an official naval UAV vision of the future and a technology roadmap. The committee believes that the Department of the Navy needs to create a UAV/UCAV master plan that is more comprehensive than the current ESG plan, that includes an S&T component as well as system concepts, and that explicitly acknowledges the existence of UAV/UCAV plans and programs outside the Department of the Navy. Perhaps, as suggested above, the ONR 351 effort could ultimately catalyze an integrated Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, and DARPA S&T program for UAV/UCAV-enabling technologies.

1  

Gaffney, RADM Paul G. II, USN, Director, Test and Evaluation and Technology Requirements. 1999. Future Naval Capabilities Fiscal Guidance —Information Memorandum, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, N91, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C., November 23.



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