The objective of this review was to evaluate S&T issues relating to the ONR 351 program of existing and proposed UCAV 6.2 efforts in terms of their relevance to meeting future naval priorities, the cost and time scale for their utilization, duplication of effort, and overall scientific and technical quality.
The FY99 6.2 funds ONR 351 had invested in UCAV technology were devoted to a systematic, well-executed, top-down planning effort. Supported by well-chosen, experienced systems and technology contractor teams, the planning efforts began with the postulation and analysis of candidate UAV/UCAV missions and goals and an initial partitioning of the solution space into three distinct tiers—high-, medium-, and low-altitude missions. Requirements derived from the resulting vision were provided to contractor teams in each of four critical technology areas (vehicle dynamics, communications/networking, sensors, and autonomy) so they could generate UCAV-critical technology roadmaps. The roadmaps were to identify unresolved UCAV technical issues, and the teams, in consultation with industry and government experts, were to evaluate the maturity of the individual technologies. The technology time lines would provide the basis for establishing specific ONR UCAV 6.2 S&T projects to be undertaken in future fiscal years.
The committee evaluated the planning process and its results; that is, it looked at the quality, completeness, and relevance to future naval priorities of the UCAV vision presented and the validity and completeness of the derived technology requirements and the resulting technology roadmaps. Since the planning process was presented as a work in progress and had not yet resulted in specific FY00 6.2 project proposals, no comments could be made about specific planned projects.
The committee's evaluation of the planning process could only be carried out in the context of all of the related, yet independent, DOD and Department of the Navy UAV activities: the Naval UAV ESG; the PEO (CU) VTUAV procurement; the NAVAIR MRE UAV BAA; an Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Kosovo-inspired UAV roadmap planning activity; the DARPA/USAF and Department of the Navy UCAV ATDs; and the Department of the Navy's FNC thrusts. Accordingly, briefings from DARPA, NAVAIR, OSD, and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations were solicited to obtain the necessary background information. The committee did not attempt in any way to evaluate or assess these parallel activities, although their potential impact on the ONR UCAV efforts under review are discussed below where appropriate. The implications of these related activities were considered in formulating the recommendations for ONR 351.
The initiative taken by ONR 351 to create a UCAV vision, mission scenarios, vehicle concepts, and technology roadmaps is significant and commendable. These elements could catalyze an integrated Navy/Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, and DARPA S&T program focused on UAV- and UCAV-enabling technologies, given the right circumstances. Although basic and applied research (6.1 and 6.2) program managers are often criticized for not taking a coherent systems point of view when defining their programs, establishing broad mission and systems requirements is generally not the responsibility of the S&T community. In this case, until very recently, the Department of the Navy's interest in UAVs had been minimal and the Navy Department's requirements community had not yet communicated an official long-term vision of what operational concepts UAV/UCAV technologies could enable in a future network-centric environment or what their advantages would be. The ONR 351 initiative attempted to fill this gap.
A systematic process based on sound systems engineering principles was established and applied top-down to create a UCAV vision. From that vision, which was extremely ambitious and futuristic, requirements were derived and used to develop roadmaps that provide descriptions and timetables for critical technologies.
ONR's definition of the term “uninhabited combat air vehicle” was broader than the usual definition. In ONR usage, the term covered all unmanned aerial vehicles in the battlespace, including those that are known today as UAVs (e.g., Predator, Pioneer, Global Hawk). While this is a reasonable definition, it contrasts with the more common usage, which thinks of UAV as the overall concept and UCAV as a weapons-bearing subset. The future vision presented thus potentially included all forms of UAVs, and ONR 351's term “UCAV” will be replaced