The USAF believes that manned aircraft aren’t going anywhere anytime soon especially in the light of ever growing anti-access/area-denial threats. That’s why the service needs the F-35 and the nascent Long Range Strike-Bomber (and associated family of systems), the service’s outgoing chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz says. Unmanned aircraft just don’t have that kind of capability and probably won’t for a good long while yet, he says. So that’s job security for the pilots of manned combat aircraft…
This is General Atomics Predator-C prototype–something like this thing could be a candidate for a next generation UAV for the USAF and US Navy. GA has sold a couple of these to someone in the USG already… (General Atomics photo)
Meanwhile, the USAF has identified a requirement for a stealthier unmanned aircraft, but it doesn’t have the money to pay for it. So the service will be leveraging the US Navy‘s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike program and its associated initial capabilities document to buy what it needs–eventually. There is already a USAF procurement officer embedded in the Navy’s UCLASS efforts. In the meantime, the USAF will soldier on with Predators and Reaper… It will upgrade those planes with new payloads if and when there is money available.
The Navy, meanwhile, is moving forward with the UCLASS. It has completed an analysis of alternatives and is just waiting for its three-stars to set the key performance parameters. The Navy is planning on fielding the aircraft in a spiral manner since it doesn’t have the cash to field everything it wants in one go.
That feature is coming soon… so keep an eye out on the news portion of the site.